LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday it must receive all of the COVID-19 vaccines it had ordered and paid for after the European Union asked AstraZeneca if it could divert supplies of the Oxford-developed shots from Britain.
The European Union, which is far behind the United States, China and Britain on rolling out a vaccine, demanded AstraZeneca spell out how it would supply the bloc with reserved doses of COVID-19 vaccine from plants in Europe and Britain.
AstraZeneca, which is headquartered in Cambridge, England, has offered to bring forward some deliveries of its vaccine to the EU which has asked the drugmaker if it can divert doses from the UK to make up for a shortfall in supplies.
“I think we need to make sure that the vaccine supply that has been bought and paid for, procured for those in the UK, is delivered,” Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove told LBC Radio.
“Our priority has to be making sure that the people in our country who are vulnerable and who we have targeted for vaccination, receive those jobs in those arms,” Gove said.
Asked repeatedly by the BBC if the British government would prevent AstraZeneca diverting essential vaccine supplies from Britain to the EU, Gove said the crucial thing was that Britain received its orders as planned and on time.
“It is the case that the supplies which have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue,” Gove told the BBC. “Absolutely, there will be no interruption to that.”
“But again, I think that the right approach to take with our friends in Europe is to make sure that we foster cooperative dialogue to see how we can do everything we can to help.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday it would have been a “great pity” if the United Kingdom had stayed in the European Union’s vaccine programme rather than set up its own plan. – Reuters