UK May Give Spare Vaccines to Ireland as EU Procurement Fiasco Rolls On

WREXHAM, WALES - NOVEMBER 30: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a hair net and face covering, poses for a photograph with a vial as he views the last minute quality testing of the 'fill and finish' stage of the manufacturing process of COVID-19 vaccines, during his visit to Wockhardt's …
Paul Ellis - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Speculation is mounting that Britain could divert some of its vaccines to other countries, and in particular the Republic of Ireland, which has been left short by the EU’s botched procurement programme.

The Republic of Ireland, which shares an open border with the United Kingdom along at its frontier with the British province of Northern Ireland, was blindsided in recent days when Brussels announced it would be deviating from the Brexit arrangements it fought tooth and nail for, to impose a hard border for vaccines on the island.

The EU quickly abandoned its plans after a substantial backlash from all the relevant parties, but is continuing to flail as the slow pace of its rollout and production issues at AstraZeneca vaccine plants in Continental Europe see it fall far, far behind Brexit Britain, with member-states increasingly looking to make their own arrangements and even turning to China and Russia for inoculations.

While relations appeared fraught when the vaccines border against Northern Ireland was announced, the British government has decided to “move on” from the row after the EU’s climbdown, committing to help the bloc as best it can — amid mounting speculation that it could even send some spare vaccines overseas to help them out of a bind, with Ireland being prioritised.

“We’ve got enough vaccines to more than vaccinate the whole population and also help the rest of the world,” said Trade Secretary Liz Truss in an inteview with Times Radio.

“So those two things can both happen,” she said.

Truss added that it “could well be the case” that some of Britain’s vaccines are diverted to needy countries, such as Ireland — “but I can’t preempt what the situation will be in two months’ time.”

The World Health Organization has gone so far as to specifically request that the United Kingdom pause its national vaccination programme once at-risk groups have been inoculated, supposedly in order to ensure that doses are “fairly distributed” internationally.

“We’re asking all countries in those circumstances to do that: ‘hang on, wait for those [in other countries]’,” said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris in a BBC interview recently.

“We’ll also appeal to all the people of the UK – you can wait,” she added.

Such a move would certainly spare the blushes of the European Union, where the inoculation star is the tiny island nation of Malta, where 6.07 people per hundred have been vaccinated.

In Ireland the figure is 3.27 per hundred, while in the EU power centres of Germany, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg the figures are 2.77, 2.34, 2.5, and 1.82 per hundred. Bulgaria sits at the bottom of the EU table, with just 0.59 per hundred vaccinated.

Brexit Britain, which was widely predicted to suffer from its decision to opt-out of the EU procurement programme, is miles ahead, with 13.95 people per hundred already vaccinated.

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