UK nations should be able to procure own vaccines, Plaid Cymru deputy says

UK nations should be allowed to procure coronavirus vaccines themselves if Westminster chooses to pass on them in future, Plaid Cymru’s deputy leader has said.

Rhun ap Iorwerth said he had concerns Wales could end up with fewer doses of a jab from US firm Moderna than it would have if the UK Government chose to place orders with it earlier.

The UK Government, which is in charge of vaccine procurement, says it has now secured five million doses of Moderna’s vaccine after the firm announced on Monday that its jab may be 94.5% effective against Covid-19.

Mr ap Iorwerth, who is also his party’s shadow health minister, told the PA news agency: “I just couldn’t see the harm in Wales trying to procure this Moderna vaccine given that the UK central procurers decided ‘no, we’re not going to bother’.

“I’ve got nothing against cooperation between the nations of the UK. If there’s an agreement that can make sure there’s a basic level of a vaccine that can be secured in a particular way, as there would have been with with PPE, fine. And if that works and that delivers a vaccine that’s great.

“But I can’t see why that should preclude Scotland, or England or Wales, being able to come to agreement ourselves as well, especially in this kind of context – when the UK decided we’re not chasing this one up. Wales could have been.

“By now on Moderna, it’s probably the case that the UK is going to be doing the bidding on our behalf, so maybe we’ve missed that boat. We might end up with a decent supply of Moderna, but we might not.”

He added: “Throughout all of this, I just feel the Welsh Government has been at its best when it’s been trying to exert as much control over its ability to respond to the pandemic as possible. And it has tripped up most often when it’s decided to throw its lot in with a four-nations approach.”

Mr ap Iorwerth also said current plans to distribute vaccines among the UK nations in proportion to their populations was unfair to Wales, who had an older and sicker population than the rest.

Wales will receive its population share of 4.78% under the Barnett formula, the mechanism used to automatically adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“If we’re being told we’re going to get a population share, well that doesn’t really make sense. We have an older population. A strict population share isn’t really going to work for Wales, is it,” Mr ap Iorwerth said.

“So it’s so we’re being told, everything is going to be okay, and I think I should be forgiven for not quite trusting that at face value.”

The UK Government has previously secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with about 10 million of these to arrive before the end of this year.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Wales, along with the other UK nations, is part of the UK Government’s advanced procurement of a number of promising vaccines and we will get a share of any successful vaccine. Purchasing in this way is the best way to ensure we got the most possible doses of future vaccines.”

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