UK 'rejects' EU coronavirus vaccine programme, sources say

Alec Sharma

The UK government has opted not to join the European Union’s coronavirus vaccine programme due to concerns over “costly delays”, it has been reported.

There were also concerns about a potential limit on the number of vaccine doses that would be allocated to each country.

“The terms just weren’t right for us. The EU scheme wouldn’t allow the UK to do anything more than it currently is,” one source said.

The EU is planning to spend around €2bn (£1.8bn) on the advance purchase of vaccines that are undergoing testing on behalf of the 27 member states.

Negotiations with Brussels have been ongoing but Alok Sharma, the business secretary, is believed to have opted out of the opportunity, according to The Daily Telegraph. The European commission is expected to be notified of on Friday.

There are currently more than 100 coronavirus vaccine candidates in development.

In the UK, taxi drivers, pharmacists and cleaners are among those who will be tested for covid-19 even if they don’t have symptoms, as part of an NHS pilot study in England. Care workers and some NHS staff already have access to this type of testing, but the new study will include people in other professions, which regularly come into contact with large numbers of people.

The decision not to participate is expected to provoke a backlash among opposition MPs, who believe that ministers are reluctant to collaborate with the EU on projects after Brexit.

The UK has already secured a bilateral deal with AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University.The Oxford and AstraZeneca alliance – which, if successful, will mean the UK becomes the first recipient of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the UK’s R number – the estimated number of people each coronavirus case infects – remains between 0.7 and 0.9 for the seventh week in a row, according to modelling by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The coronavirus may be spread through tiny particles in the air indoors, according to information released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.

The worldwide death toll has passed 555,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 12.3 million.