A visitor queues for a vaccine in Folkestone, the UK. Picture: BLOOMBERG/CHRIS RATCLIFFE
A visitor queues for a vaccine in Folkestone, the UK. Picture: BLOOMBERG/CHRIS RATCLIFFE

London — The UK 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 on  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 UK aims to offer vaccines to about 15-million people in its top four priority groups by February 15. That includes care-home residents, people over 70, front-line health workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable. So far, nearly 9-million people have received their first dose, with a record number of almost 600,000 people being injected on Saturday alone, government data shows.

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. More than 100,000 people have died in the UK after testing positive for the virus.

Among those hospitalised with Covid-19 is Captain Tom Moore, the 100-year-old veteran who has raised almost £40m for the nation’s health service.

The UK expanded its vaccine pipeline on Monday by exercising an option to order another 40-million doses from Valneva, bringing the total to 100-million doses. The UK has an option for another 90-millon doses from 2023 to 2025, according to Valneva, which valued the total of 190-million doses at as much as £1.4bn.

The government is “absolutely confident” it can continue to deliver its vaccine plan, Truss told Sky News on Sunday. Her comments came after the EU’s executive arm announced it would require manufacturers to obtain authorisation before sending shots manufactured in the bloc to some countries.

That raised concerns over the provision of supplies of the Pfizer  and BioNTech shot, manufactured in Belgium, to the UK

Vaccine row

The origin of the dispute is AstraZeneca’s decision to prioritise Britain over the EU after 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 the year, bringing the total to 40-million for the period, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter on Sunday.

The spat caused uproar after a threat by the EU to unilaterally trigger emergency clauses in its post-Brexit accord with the UK, which officials have since backtracked on. Irish Taoiseach Micheál 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 held a video call with CEOs of pharmaceutical companies on Sunday to discuss how vaccines can 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”.



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