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Suffolk MP urges co-operation between UK and EU to avoid vaccine disruption

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock says the UK will co-operate with the European Union to ensure the continued supply of coronavirus vaccines.

Earlier today, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC that supplies of vaccines were “tight” following an EU warning that it may reduce the number of vaccines each country receives following production difficulties.

But while Mr Zahawi said he was “confident” the UK would still receive an ample number of vaccines, he warned against “vaccine nationalism”.

Matt Hancock (44133092)
Matt Hancock (44133092)

Speaking at a webinar event hosted by Chatham House on Tuesday, Health Secretary Mr Hancock (pictured) remained confident that the UK would still receive vaccines.

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.

“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.

“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.”

The UK currently exports the Pfizer vaccine from Belgium, while it produces the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine domestically.

The concern over vaccine supplies comes as the government continues its attempts to give a first dose to 15 million of the country’s eldest and most vulnerable people by mid-February.

Mr Hancock also addressed concerns about new variants across the world being able to evade the existing vaccine.

New variants have been detected in both Brazil and South Africa, as well as a new strain discovered in the UK, but health officials have stated that existing vaccines can adapt to the new strains.

Speaking about plans for a new variant assessment platform led by Public Health England, Mr Hancock added: “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.”

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