“UK vaccine success built on greed,” says Boris Johnson
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised for claiming UK vaccine success is a product of “capitalism” and “greed”
- Belgian MEP says that while the EU is stockpiling on COVID vaccines, AstraZeneca should deliver on its commitments
- Coronavirus deaths fall to their lowest levels since last summer
- Children could be offered coronavirus vaccines in August
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced heavy criticism on Wednesday after claiming that UK vaccine success is a product of “capitalism” and “greed”.
While Mr Johnson was quick to backtrack on his statement, Nick Dearden, director of the group Global Justice Now, said his comments have revealed: “just how warped his understanding of this crisis is.”
However, several government sources have jumped to the Prime Minister’s defence and insisted that Boris Johnson was alluding to the profit motive propelling pharmaceutical firm to manufacture new products.
Another source noted that Boris Johnson never intended to criticise pharmaceutical companies’ work in any way and delivered heaping praise to these companies during the private meeting among Tory MPs.
Ministers have also insisted that Mr Johnson’s statement was not designed to fuel tensions between the UK and the EU. One MP said that the Prime Minister immediately realised he had “messed up” as he withdrew his statement as quickly as he made it.
The statement comes as official figures from GOV.uk reveal that 28,327,873 million people in the UK have received the first dose of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
While Mr Johnson did not compare the UK’s vaccination campaign to EU countries, the latest figures reveal that Britain’s vaccination gap with the euro area is widening.
However, this could make the Prime Minister’s attempt to dissuade European leaders from imposing a vaccine export ban on the UK more difficult when they meet on Thursday.
EU preparing to tighten COVID vaccine export rules
EU leaders will hold a virtual meeting with the UK on Thursday to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine export ban. The EU has threatened to withhold vaccine as the pharmaceutical company has failed to deliver on its contractual agreement with the bloc.
Although Mr Johnson is attempting to dissuade EU leaders from imposing a COVID vaccine export ban, he may be inclined to offer coronavirus vaccines to the European Union to show solidarity, which could also help alleviate Brexit tensions.
Belgian MEP, Philippe Lamberts says neither the UK nor the EU is to blame for the bloc’s laggard vaccine rollout, but “we have to do our job.”
Mr Lamberts, who admires Britain’s coronavirus vaccination programme, admitted that the EU has stockpiled millions of doses but said that should not “exonerate” AstraZeneca from its delivery commitments.
Whether the EU will go ahead with its COVID vaccine export ban remains unclear at this time. However, with more than 50% of Britain’s adult population vaccinated against COVID-19, Professor Neil Ferguson said he is optimistic that Mr Johnson’s lockdown roadmap will go ahead without delay and people will be able to reunite with loved ones from March 29th.
According to recent reports, children could also start getting vaccinated as early as August in the UK, which could further reduce the risk of transmission of the infection.
Children in Britain could be offered vaccines by August
Oxford University is conducting a child vaccine study of 300 volunteers between the ages of 6 and 17 to determine whether it is safe to begin vaccinating children in Britain.
According to a Telegraph report, the study’s findings will not be ready until June or July; however, it will deliver a massive push to the UK’s immunisation efforts if approved.
Israel is already inoculating 17-year-olds, and some 600 children aged between 12 and 16 years-old are being trialled with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to early results published in The Guardian, Israel medical authorities have found no severe side effects.
If the Oxford research group’s conclusions are successful, this means that more than 10 million people under the age of 18 could be offered a COVID vaccine from August – a huge win for the UK’s vaccination campaign.
It comes as the UK’s death toll falls to its lowest five-year average since last summer, with experts insisting that this is evidence that Britain’s rapid vaccine rollout is saving lives.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the week commencing March 8th, COVID fatalities only accounted for 14% of all deaths, compared to nearly 50% in the week to January 22nd 2021.
That said, while coronavirus fatalities are now following a downward trajectory, with a death toll of 148,125 – the UK has one of the worst mortality outcomes in the world.
Director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, Prof Neil Ferguson, said: “While I’m optimistic that the country will return to some semblance of normality within the coming months, we need to remain vigilant and cautious.”
He added: “Given the threat still posed by mutant variants of the virus, we need to be careful towards the pace with which social distancing is relaxed.”
Similarly, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, warns that the likelihood of eliminating the coronavirus is “close to zero.”
Is wiping out the coronavirus impossible?
The UK government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, delivered some disheartening news to the UK and the world this week after stating that COVID-19 will remain an issue “for the foreseeable future.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer delivered his statement during a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, which also marked a year since British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first lockdown announcement.
No-one would have thought that a year later, the world will still be affected by COVID-19, albeit there now appears to be hope on the horizon courtesy of the global vaccine rollout.
The next phase of lifting lockdown rules is also scheduled to come into effect at the end of the month, with more COVID restrictions expected to be eased on April 12th and May 17th.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have unveiled their plans for lifting lockdown restrictions. The Welsh Government published its new strategy for easing lockdown last week, with “stay local” rules expected to be removed from March 27th.
However, it has come to our attention that Mr Johnson regrets how coronavirus legislation has given powers to the devolved nations and has admitted that the events of the last year will live with him for the rest of his life.
His comments come ahead of today’s Prime Minister Questions (PMQs). Mr Johnson is expected to be grilled for his statement over UK vaccine success, threats from the EU to block vaccine exports and concerns about Europe’s third wave travelling into the UK.