Vaccine row: Kwasi Kwarteng refuses to commit UK to sharing Covid jab doses with EU

UK 'must keep Britain safe before sharing vaccine' says Kwarteng

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Kwasi Kwarteng has been pressed on reports that the British Government was prepared to share supplies of coronavirus vaccines with EU countries. Boris Johnson was said to be prepared to offer 3.7 million vaccine doses to Ireland as early as this weekend to aid the countries lacklustre vaccination programme. Amid the row over the AstraZeneca drug and claims of “vaccine nationalism” from Brussels, the Business Secretary has insisted the priority must be to keep “Britians safe.”

Mr Kwartang told Sky News: “I think our main focus at moment is to try and vaccinate the whole adult population and there is still a way to go on that.

“Also the other thing we have to stick to is, of course, the roadmap and in order to get the road map in hope of reopening the economy we have got to vaccinate as many people in our country as possible.”

Quizzed on Ireland in particular, he added: “I think our focus at to be on keeping Britons safe.

“We want to work cooperatively as well with other countries but the main priority is to get the vaccine rollout.

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“Let’s just work through our vaccine programme, it has been quite successful this isn’t the time to let up on it.

“Then we can go through the roadmap and then if there are surpluses of vaccine doses we can share them.

“But there are no surpluses at the moment.

“We have still got a huge number to vaccinate.” 

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Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, have all hinted at a plan to send vaccines to Ireland.

One Cabinet source told The Times: “Everyone can see the logic of it.

“It’s good politics, while at the same time solving a genuine public health concern in Northern Ireland.

“It is a balancing act, making sure that we have enough vaccines to give the UK’s adult population the second dose. Easter will be when we might be able to start offering vaccines to Ireland.”

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Mr Johnson raised concerns over a fresh wave of coronavirus cases sweeping the European continent amid the EU’s failure to mount a robust vaccination rollout.

Parts of Germany are under strict measures, Paris and other areas in France are now in lockdown while Italians are set for an Easter under a national shutdown.

While the UK has now issued over 30 million first doses of a vaccine, case levels may rise if the third wave in Europe spreads to the UK or as Mr Johnson said, “washed up on our shores”.

Sir Jeremy Farrar from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has argued the UK must begin to share its surplus doses.

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