UK will work with the European Union to avoid vaccine disruption – Matt Hancock

The UK will work with the European Union to ensure there is no disruption to the supply of coronavirus vaccines, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Speaking at a webinar event hosted by Chatham House on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said that vaccine protectionism “was not the right approach”, following the EU’s proposal to impose tight controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccines made in the bloc.

Mr Hancock said: “We oppose protectionism in all its forms and I think protectionism is unfortunate, especially so in the midst of a pandemic, when we are working so closely together with countries right around the world.”

He added: “I am sure that we can work with the EU to ensure that whilst transparency is welcome, there are no blockers that are put in place.”

On Monday, the Government said it was in “close contact” with suppliers after the European Commission issued the warning amid a row with AstraZeneca over a shortfall of doses for member states.

At the Chatham House event, Mr Hancock said that he was confident there would not be any supply disruptions to the UK.

He said: “Having spoken to the chief executives of both of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, I am confident of the supply of vaccine into the UK won’t be disrupted.

“But I would urge all international partners in fact to be collaborative and working closely together.”

It comes as the Government announced that the UK would provide genomic expertise to nations with limited resources to flag any concerning new coronavirus variants emerging abroad.

Mr Hancock made the pledge on Tuesday as countries around the world are becoming increasingly concerned over new coronavirus variants evolving to evade vaccines.

HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths
HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths

He said there would be a new variant assessment platform, to be led by Public Health England, to analyse the genetics of coronavirus samples.

In a speech to the Chatham House think tank, Mr Hancock said: “This pandemic has shown that the foundations of so many of the exciting experiences that make life worth living are contingent not just on our health, or the health of our neighbours, but the health of people across the world.

“The new variants of coronavirus have demonstrated this once again so we must work to promote health security right across the world.

“Our new variant assessment platform will help us better understand this virus and how it spreads and will also boost global capacity to understand coronavirus, so we’re all better prepared for whatever lies ahead.”

Nations will be able to request the support through the World Health Organisation or directly to the UK.