Boris Johnson has said he is “very confident” in the security of the UK’s supply of coronavirus vaccines regardless of “the toings and froings” in the European Union.
The Prime Minister said on Sunday we “will continue to take steps to protect” the deliveries, in his first public comments since Brussels briefly overrode part of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland to impose export controls on jabs.
His comments came after ministers agreed to a “reset” in relations with the EU after the bloc’s widely-criticised move that came as it battles to solve supply shortages from pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
In a video from No 10 filmed on Sunday, Mr Johnson assured a member of the public who raised concerns over whether she will get her follow-up shot of the Belgian-made Pfizer vaccine that “we’re very confident that we will be able to give you your second dose”.
“You will have seen all this stuff in the papers about our friends across the Channel and disputes with them,” the Prime Minister added.
“All I would say is whatever the toings and froings there, we’re very confident in our security of supply.
“We will continue to take steps to protect the UK’s security of supply and also to ensure that we ramp up our own manufacturing.”
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) January 31, 2021
Mr Johnson’s comments came after he held emergency talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Friday to help broker a compromise after the bloc triggered Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, in a move that risked a hard border with the Republic.
Brussels said AstraZeneca agreed to supply nine million additional doses this quarter, but the new target of 40 million jabs is still half what the UK-based firm aimed for.
The Prime Minister insisted he wants the UK to get vaccinated “at the same time” as the rest of Europe and the world, arguing that “there’s no point one country on its own getting vaccinated”.
But with predictions that the nation will ultimately have a surplus of jabs after vaccinating the population, questions have turned to when the Government will help other nations.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss earlier said it is “too early” to determine when the UK will send vaccines abroad.
She said that “we first need to make sure that our population is vaccinated” but insisted it would be damaging to become a “vaccinated island” while other countries go without.
“It’s a bit too early to say about how we would deploy ‘XX’ vaccine, but we certainly want to work with friends and neighbours, we want to work with developing countries because we’re only going to solve this issue once everybody in the world is vaccinated,” Ms Truss told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
She was pressed whether the UK would aid allies and developing nations before autumn, when the Government aims to have offered jabs to the entire population.
Asked if she could guarantee that the supply of Pfizer jabs would not be disrupted, Ms Truss told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC: “Yes I can.”
“The Prime Minister has spoken to the president of the European Commission. She has assured him that there will be no disruption of contracts that we have with any producer in the EU,” she added.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said on Saturday that the EU recognises it “made a mistake” in its short-lived but widely condemned move to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to control shipments of jabs.
A compromise was struck to prevent a possible hard border on the island of Ireland after a flurry of diplomacy followed the EU’s surprise move on Friday.
Ministers have expressed confidence the Government will hit its target of vaccinating the 15 million most vulnerable individuals in the UK by mid-February.
In a record daily rise, official data showed a 598,389 rise in the number of people vaccinated, bringing the UK-wide total to 8,977,329.
But it came as a further 587 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the official death toll to 106,158.