UK vaccine plan and AstraZeneca vaccine data
- AstraZeneca downgrades its vaccine data after backlash from US watchdogs
- UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock hit EU with a vaccine comeback
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says vaccine plan could include jab passports
- UK hospitality industry chiefs dismiss the idea of vaccine passports
After months of criticism for its handling of COVID-19 – resulting in one of the highest death tolls in Europe – Britain is now on track to be among the world’s first countries to reopen its economy.
Britain’s brighter economic recovery outlook is being driven by its world-leading vaccination programme, which as of March 25th, has successfully delivered at least one vaccine dose to 28,653,523 people.
Despite the number of negative headlines concerning AstraZeneca, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pinned the UK’s coronavirus success story down to the contract negotiated with the biopharmaceutical firm.
Meanwhile, scepticism in the EU over AstraZeneca’s formula has resulted in further delays to the vaccine rollout across Europe, which comes as several member states reimpose lockdown restrictions to stem the spreading of the third wave of COVID-19.
The UK has inoculated more than 50% of its adult population than the EU, where only 10% of adults have received the first dose of coronavirus vaccinations.
The EU is blaming AstraZeneca’s failure to deliver on its contractual agreements as the reason for the euro area’s laggard rollout.
On Thursday, the bloc also accused the UK of vaccine nationalism, despite making threats to bloc jab exports to Britain due to its more progressive vaccination campaign.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “We have a feeling that the vaccine nationalism is really on the other side of the Channel, as the EU hasn’t seen any jabs from the UK arrive here.”
Matt Hancock hit back at vaccine nationalism accusations, stating that the UK has received more doses because it brokered a superior deal than the EU three months earlier.
Matt Hancock hits back at nationalism accusations
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Hancock said: “Our contract trumps theirs. It’s called contract law — it’s very straightforward.”
He later condemned Eurozone leaders for attacking AstraZeneca when the company is striving to help the world fight against the pandemic.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also commented on the matter, warning the EU that blocking vaccine exports would be a severe breach of contractual law.
PM Johnson added: “I would just gently say to anybody considering a blockade, or interruption of supply chains, that companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where arbitrary blockades are imposed.”
The EU now appears to be rowing back on its threat to block jab exports. According to a joint statement released by Brussels and London, both sides are working on creating a “win-win situation” over vaccine distribution, and co-operation is essential now, more than ever, with the third wave sweeping across the continent.
News of the UK and EU co-operating comes as AstraZeneca downgrades its coronavirus vaccine data.
AstraZeneca jab offers 76% protection against COVID-19, not 79%
AstraZeneca has downgraded the efficacy of its vaccine after coming under scrutiny from several US watchdog groups.
While the Anglo-Swedish firm’s jab offers significant protection against the coronavirus, AstraZeneca came under fire for outdated vaccine data in the latest public controversy.
After reanalysing the research, AstraZeneca published a late-night statement concluding that its shot had a primary efficacy rate of 76%, which was 3% lower than previously reported.
AstraZeneca revisited its analysis after the National Institute of Allergy, and Infectious Diseases said data and safety officials raised concerns about the trial’s validity as some COVID-19 cases had been excluded from the study.
University of Leicester virologist Julian Tang, who had not been involved in the research, said the anomaly could be down to “AstraZeneca being too hasty in submitting the earlier, incomplete interim analysis rather than waiting to analyse and submit the full dataset.”
Nonetheless, given that the efficacy rate at 76% is not substantially different from the figure previously published, US regulators will more than likely authorise the vaccine for use.
However, “scepticism about the efficacy and safety of AstraZeneca’s jab may linger,” says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In other news, MPs are debating whether to extend the Coronavirus Act’s emergency powers until the autumn, which would allow the legal plans for PM Johnson’s lockdown exit roadmap to go ahead as planned.
Ministers are also believed to be mulling over the idea of COVID-19 vaccine passports, which could play a role in reopening the economy safely.
UK government’s vaccine plan criticised by the hospitality sector
According to recent reports, British ministers are debating whether to introduce jab passports for the hospitality sector, allowing landlords to bar entry to unvaccinated diners.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if the UK government decides to incorporate this in the new vaccine plans, it would be up to “individual publicans” to enforce jab passports.
However, PM Johnson recognises the moral and ethical issues of implementing a vaccine passport system. He noted that some people could not receive jabs due to health problems and other circumstances such as pregnancy.
Furthermore, Mr Johnson said that ministers would only consider introducing a vaccine passport scheme for pubs, bars, and other hospitality venues once all adults in the UK have been offered their first dose.
Mr Johnson said ministers have not yet reached an agreement on the idea, and an update on vaccine plans will be delivered in April, with an official report published in June.
However, the news has come to the dismay of most pub landlords, with many insisting that jab passports would put “an unnecessary burden on businesses that are already struggling”.
It comes even though a MailOnline poll found that 59% of people would support vaccine passport schemes in pubs, compared to the 19% that voted against the idea.
However, a government spokesperson told The Times that pubs could be given an ultimatum: operate at half-full capacity with social distancing measures in place or open at total capacity under a vaccine passport scheme.
Chief executive of Shepherd Neame’s pub chain, Jonathan Neame, stated that mandating jab passports is “a fairly poorly thought-out idea” and could result in young staff being subjected to intimidation from customers.
Mr Neame told BBC Radio 4: “I’m very concerned about the pressure we put on our young people – 50% of pub staff are under 25 – you’re going to force them to make some very challenging judgments because they’re not qualified or trained as door staff, as they might be in the nightclub sector.”
However, Deltic Group Chief Executive Peter Marks, who owns Pryzm, said most people, including young persons, will more than likely accept the idea of jab passports as they already have to carry ID to be allowed entry into venues.
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