The UK will not have any excess Covid vaccines that can be given away to other countries until all Britons have had their first dose at least, despite reports that millions of jabs could be soon handed out to Ireland.
A Downing Street source said today that the government believes it will not be able “to identify any surplus [vaccines] until later this year” and that it is “dependent on supply chain reliability ad whether new vaccines are needed for variants or a booster”.
This suggests that no excess vaccines will be given out to foreign countries before every UK adult has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, which the government hopes will be 31 July at the latest.
It comes despite a report in the Sunday Times suggesting the UK was going to give almost 4m vaccines to Ireland to stop a new wave of Covid cases hitting Northern Ireland when travel restrictions are eased.
Ireland has only vaccinated around 10 per cent of its population, while Northern Ireland has vaccinated almost 40 per cent of its population.
Speaking to journalists today, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “Our first priority is to ensure the safety of the British public.
“We don’t have a surplus of vaccines but we will consider how any surplus doses are allocated if and when they become available.”
Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster today said the UK should be giving away vaccines to Ireland if there are any surplus units.
She said: “If there is surplus vaccine then we should share it with our nearest neighbours out of neighbourliness but also out of the fact it will have an impact of course on us here in Northern Ireland, so there’s a very practical reason why I believe that should happen.”
More than 30m people in the UK have now received their first vaccination, with all over-50s set to be jabbed by 15 April.
The government is then aiming to offer every UK adult a vaccine by 31 July.