UK abandons EU coronavirus vaccine purchase plan

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The UK must deny the possibility of joining a multi-billion euro EU plan to secure supplies of potential coronavirus vaccines after concluding that its conditions were unfavorable.

Boris Johnson’s government made the decision after discussions with the European Commission suggested that London would not be able to participate in the governance or negotiating team of the plan, according to British officials, in a reported development for the first time by the Telegraph.

The UK’s potential entry into the program was a test of the possibilities for emergency cooperation with the EU at a time when discussions on their wider relationship after Brexit are tense. The negotiations took place as an international battle intensified between rich countries to buy remedies for coronaviruses, often long before their effectiveness was confirmed.

The British government decided “on this occasion” not to adhere to the EU plan, because London would not have had a say in which vaccines to buy, at what price or in what quantity and on what timetable. delivery, said British officials.

“We could not negotiate with a company with which the commission negotiates,” said one of them. “We will have to stop our own negotiations if the EU starts to negotiate with a manufacturer with whom we are already negotiating. ”

The British government has insisted that it is still willing to step up collaboration with the EU on “out of the box” vaccines. This could include sharing information about potential vaccines, negotiating with manufacturers, testing and mitigating supply chain bottlenecks.

The committee said it had received no official notification from the UK of a decision not to join the vaccination initiative. He declined to comment on the details of his discussions with London.

The EU announced last month that it would use an emergency fund of 2.7 billion euros, with the possibility of additional funds, to conclude advance purchase agreements with pharmaceutical companies for promising vaccine candidates among the scores being developed around the world.

The UK has been invited to participate in the Brexit withdrawal agreement in force since it left the bloc in January, which gives London the obligation to finance – and the right to be involved – all projects within the 2014-2020 budget of the block.

The United States has already invested billions of dollars in the development of the Covid-19 vaccine and purchased much of the global supply of remdesivir, a coronavirus treatment produced by the US pharmaceutical group Gilead.

The commission’s vaccination plan has yet to reach its first agreement, despite weeks of talks with Johnson & Johnson of the United States. Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy announced last month that they had agreed to buy up to 400 million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca, says purchasing manager, who is now integrated on the block’s broader vaccine initiative. The United Kingdom and the United States have entered into their own bilateral vaccine agreements with AstraZeneca.

Video: Coronavirus: the global race for a vaccine | FT interview

John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford who is working on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine in partnership with AstraZeneca, said he believed the government’s decision to flee the European initiative by vaccine content was “reasonable”.

“We have a very, very consistent and good vaccination plan,” he said. “I think we are way ahead of Europe in the way we think about vaccines so that I can understand why the government may have wanted to work more with other groups of countries.”

Sir John added that negotiations between the Oxford consortium and the quartet of EU countries had “taken forever” while similar talks with the United States had reached an agreement in “about a weekend , Raising concerns about the delays caused by the bulk negotiations.

Proponents of EU vaccine efforts highlight the potential for bargaining as a group working to reach deals with a range of companies at good prices.

Increasing incentives for high-income countries to purchase doses of vaccine have raised concerns that poor countries will be ousted.

The European Commission has insisted that EU efforts will take action on them, arguing that “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.

The UK and other non-EU countries are among the donors to a Brussels-led contribution effort that has raised nearly € 16 billion for a fair global supply of vaccines, tests and treatments against coronaviruses.

Alex Harris, head of global policy at Wellcome, the health charity, has urged the British government to collaborate and engage in other multilateral efforts to secure and distribute a vaccine. He said that the cap of the EU vaccine initiative on the number of doses received by participating countries was the best way to ensure that there were enough vaccines for those who needed them in the rest of the world. .

“We urge the UK government to follow the EU’s lead and guarantee only doses of vaccine for those who need it most – healthcare workers, those over 65 and other vulnerable groups” , did he declare. “This is essential for the first six to nine months of early vaccine availability, when global manufacturing capacity is unlikely to match demand.

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