NEWS DIGEST 20.03.2021: The UK-EU vaccine squabble gets louder

Good morning. Today’s news bulletin is brought to you by Google News. The pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, producer of the Pifzer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, has urged the European Union to show restraint in its spat with the UK over vaccine supplies, warning Brussels that the UK, which left the Union in January, could retaliate by withholding the raw ingredients for the vaccine that it manufactures. Pfizer has the ingredients made for its proprietary vaccine in the English region of Yorkshire, and fears its supply chain will be interrupted should Britain become agitated further – Exclusive: Pfizer warns EU to back down on vaccine threats to UK (The Telegraph)

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There are fears that the third wave of coronavirus currently impacting mainland Europe could make its way across the Channel to the UK within weeks after the AstraZeneca vaccine fiasco, in which the version of the new coronavirus vaccine was blamed for instances of blood clots in some inoculated patients. The EU has been accused of botching its rollout of the vaccines, causing parts of the union (such as Paris and the whole north of France) to go into emergency lockdowns due to problems with supplies of ‘jabs’. Political infighting and concerns over the AstraZeneca injections have accelerated the problem, making UK scientists jittery over a possible third wave hitting Britain too. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has urged the government to take a cautious approach amid the surge in infections on the Continent – but have not called for a change to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown – DEADLY SURGE Fears Europe’s Covid third wave could spread to the UK within weeks after AstraZeneca vaccine fiasco (The Sun UK News)

Around fifty per cent of adults in the UK have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Government data up to March 18 suggests that 49.9 per cent of the population aged 18 and over have received a first dose, with an estimated 73,000 more jabs needed to pass the halfway mark. The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, was among them, receiving a shot of the AstraZeneca version yesterday, and urging others to do the same. A total of 22,337,590 people had been given a first jab as of March 18, according to NHS England – Live Coronavirus latest news: Almost 50pc of adults have received first dose of vaccine in the UK (The Telegraph)

The EU’s stance over the AstraZeneca vaccine could cost many lives on the Continent, according to Spain-based journalist Giles Tremlett, who writes for Britain’s Guardian newspaper. The inability of the EU to properly allocate vaccine supplies stood in stark contrast to the UK and even developing nations such as Morocco, Tremlett wrote with his relatives in the UK already having been inoculated, while he will have to wait until June to get his one. In his adopted homeland, Tremlett noted that 80-year-olds have only started getting the vaccine in the capital Madrid this week, and the drive has come to a screeching halt due to supplies running out. So far, only ten per cent of Spaniards have received the first dose. The reporter blamed ‘political incompetence’ saying that the decision of some EU countries such as France, Italy, Germany and Spain, was more for political than health reasons, due to post-Brexit tension with the UK – The EU’s AstraZeneca vaccine stance will cost lives, here in Spain and all over Europe (The Guardian UK Edition Opinion)

Meanwhile, back in the UK, one leading newspaper has warned that there will be ‘difficult times ahead’ for prime minister Boris Johnson, who has already caught much flak on the political scene for overestimating the conquering of the virus and for his handling of lockdowns and other anti-viral measures. While the paper siad that Johnson could still rise up and own the situation, it commented that engaging in press publicity like ‘vaccine selfies’ will not matter much for the PM’s reputation if Britain is brought to its knees by the double whammy of COVID-19 and Brexit – Difficult times lie ahead for Boris Johnson and a ‘vaccine selfie’ won’t help him (The Independent Voices)

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