U.K. Meets Key Vaccination Milestone, Secures More Supplies

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The U.K. is set to confirm that residents at every eligible care home in England have been offered a Covid-19 vaccine, even as a dispute over exports from Europe raises concern over supplies.

Shots have been offered to eligible residents of more than 10,000 homes where possible, official figures are set to show later Monday. The announcement comes after reassurances yesterday by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss that the nation’s supply of vaccines is secure and the country will stick to its rollout timetable.

The U.K. aims to offer vaccines to about 15 million people in its top four priority groups by Feb. 15. That includes care home residents, people over 70, frontline health care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable. So far, a total of 8,977,32 people have received their first dose, with a record number of almost 600,000 people being jabbed on Saturday alone, government data show.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the care home figures as “a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable.” Even so, he warned that the number of cases and people in the hospital remains dangerously high. Over 100,000 people have died in the U.K. after testing positive for the virus.

Among those hospitalized with Covid is Captain Tom Moore, the 100-year-old veteran who has raised almost 40 million pounds ($55 million) for the nation’s health service.

The U.K. on Monday expanded its vaccine pipeline by exercising an option to order another 40 million doses from Valneva SE, bringing the total to 100 million doses. The U.K. has an option for another 90m doses from 2023-2025, according to Valneva, which valued the total of 190 million doses at as much as 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion).

DeveloperNo. of Doses Secured by U.K.
Oxford/AstraZeneca100 million
Valneva100 million
GlaxoSmithKline/Sanofi Pasteur60 million
Novavax60 million
BioNTech/Pfizer40 million
Janssen30 million
Moderna17 million

The government is “absolutely confident” it can continue to deliver its vaccine plan, Truss told Sky News on Sunday. Her comments came after the European Union’s executive arm announced it would require manufacturers to obtain authorization before sending shots manufactured in the bloc to some other countries. That raised concerns over the provision of supplies of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE shot, manufactured in Belgium, to the U.K.

Vaccine Row

The origin of the dispute is AstraZeneca Plc’s decision to prioritize Britain over the EU following a Belgian production glitch, in what Brussels claims was a breach of contract. After a flurry of activity, AstraZeneca agreed to deliver 9 million additional vaccine doses to the EU in the first quarter of this year, bringing the total to 40 million for the period, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday on Twitter.

The spat caused uproar after a threat by the EU to unilaterally trigger emergency clauses in its post-Brexit accord with the U.K., which officials have since backtracked on. Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin told the BBC that people had been “blindsided” by the move, while former Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as “very foolish” and said it risked endangering Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal.

Von der Leyen on Sunday held a video call with chief executives of pharmaceutical companies to discuss how vaccines could be more rapidly deployed, manufactured and approved in the future.

“The pandemic highlighted that manufacturing capacities are a limiting factor. It is essential to address these challenges,” the commission said in a statement after the call. It added that “the emergence of variants of concern raises the imminent threat of reduced efficacy of recently approved vaccines.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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