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JCVI deputy chair calls for 'grown up' solution to EU vaccine crisis

21 March 2021, 11:39 | Updated: 21 March 2021, 11:43

By Joe Cook

The deputy chair of the UK’s vaccine advisory group has called for a “grown up” solution amidst EU threats to block vaccine exports, adding he is “saddened” by how European leaders have run their vaccination program.

Professor Anthony Harden, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday the situation with Europe “is really difficult”.

“Let’s hope that this all gets sorted out and let’s hope that we all act in grown up ways about this, because ultimately we want not only Britain to be protected, we want Europe to be protected, we want the world to be protected and that must be our main drive as human beings,” he added.

The Oxford professor’s comments come after European Union leaders threatened to block vaccine exports to the UK, as the bloc faces a resurgence of coronavirus cases and a slow vaccine rollout.

France and Poland have begun new partial lockdowns this weekend, while Germany is also expected to impose an "emergency break"" amidst warnings of "exponential growth" in infections.

Read more: Experts warn foreign summer breaks ‘unlikely’ amid concern over Europe's third Covid wave

This weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German reporters that the EU has “the possibility to forbid planned exports”.

“That is the message to AstraZeneca, ‘You fulfil your contract with Europe before you start delivering to other countries’,” she added.

Read more: Ursula von der Leyen threatens to block 19m AstraZeneca vaccine doses from leaving Europe

The intervention was condemned by Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, who told Tom Swabrick: “I think that the comments the president of the European Commission made to some of the German newspapers were deeply, deeply unhelpful.

“I think that this escalating war of words helps absolutely nobody. If we have learnt anything through this pandemic - or should have learnt anything - it is that if we don’t defeat Covid everywhere we don’t defeat it anywhere.”

Leaders across the continent have also come under fire for their comments and decisions around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, pausing the rollout over blood clot concerns, despite scientific evidence pointing to the contrary.

Prof Harden told LBC that the message from regulators “is that the vaccine is safe, there is no difference in blood clots between those that have been vaccinated and the general population”.

“All along these decisions have been the correct ones in Britain,” he added.

Read more: Half of UK adults receive first Covid-19 vaccine dose

“It saddens me to see how the Europeans have run their vaccination program, because of course once you stop and start programs as they have done, and politicians make statements, then it loses public confidence and people don’t take up the vaccine.

“We know that the one thing that is going to protect us and get us out of this pandemic is getting vaccinated.’’

Watch: EU 'playing politics with public health' amid vaccines controversy

Pressed by Tom on what impact an EU vaccine export block could have on the UK vaccination program, Prof Harden said the UK strategy means “we have got options”.

“My understanding is that the government has ordered a number of different vaccines: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, we have got Moderna on the way, we have got orders for NovaVax and Jansen vaccines.

“I believe the Moderna will start after the Easter period, so we have got options.”

He added: “I think as long as we carry on vaccinating and we unlock slowly, as per the government schedule, then we will be in a much better position in this country by the summer.”