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Vaccination rate in UK four times that of Ireland's as fears over shortages grow

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European Commissioner in charge of Health Stella Kyriakides
addresses the AstraZeneca vaccine controversy in Brussels

European Commissioner in charge of Health Stella Kyriakides addresses the AstraZeneca vaccine controversy in Brussels

European Commissioner in charge of Health Stella Kyriakides addresses the AstraZeneca vaccine controversy in Brussels

The rate of Covid-19 vaccination in the UK is now nearly four times higher than in Ireland, amid fears a shortage of supplies from Oxford AstraZeneca will slow down the roll-out to the over-70s here.

It comes amid the bitter row between the European Commission and AstraZeneca and demands that 75 million jabs be diverted from the UK for member states.

The EU is expected to receive only 31 million doses in the first quarter, around 60pc less than initially agreed, with knock-on shortages for Ireland.

Promised

The latest data shows the doses administered in the UK per 100 people stood at 10.79 yesterday, with 7.3 million vaccines given.

The Republic of Ireland is fourth in the table after the UK, Malta and Denmark. The number of doses given here per 100 people was 2.9.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said around 300,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine are promised in February and March - down from the expected 600,000 - but he hopes that can improve.

The plan is to start the roll-out of the vaccine - due to be approved tomorrow by the European Medicines Agency - in the middle of next month in GP surgeries and vaccination centres, starting with over-85s.

But there are still questions about whether the EMA will authorise it for older age groups.

Residents over 65 in nursing homes and other residential centres, as well as staff and frontline health workers, will be given the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

It could be the middle of March before all frontline healthcare workers get a second dose.

AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot said his contract with the UK meant that doses coming from its factories would go to Britain first.

He insisted the EU contract did not commit the company to a specific timetable for deliveries.

The vaccines meant for the EU were produced in four plants in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

But Stella Kyriakides, the EU's health commissioner, said: "We reject the logic of first come, first served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts.

United

"Let me be crystal clear: the 27 European Union member states are united that AstraZeneca needs to deliver on its commitments in our agreement.

"We are in a pandemic. We lose people every day.

"These are not numbers. They are not statistics. These are persons, with families, with friends and colleagues.

"Pharmaceutical companies, vaccine developers, have moral, societal and contractual responsibilities which they need to uphold."


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