Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Post-European Council Meeting: Statements
I want to speak about the European Council summit in the context of Covid-19 vaccines. I note that the transparency and authorisation mechanism for vaccine exports has been extended until the end of June. I also note that the UK has received 9.1 million vaccine doses from the EU, which is virtually three times the amount exported to the next highest on the list, Canada. While it is important that we continue to export vaccines, the UK must acknowledge the level of vaccines coming from the EU and must stop playing games. While Ireland will obviously accept any spare vaccines, the UK should not be playing political games with Covid-19 vaccines because lives are at stake.
The agreements in place between AstraZeneca and the UK and EU, respectively, are very different. The UK agreement was signed on 28 August 2020, one day after the EU agreement was signed, yet one could easily assume the UK had been dealing with AstraZeneca long before that point. Furthermore, the EU got defined supply chains within its agreement, with specific manufacturing sites mentioned. I expect the bulk of those were in the UK but they certainly had access to sites in Europe. The question for the EU is whether we are satisfied with security of supply. This is the most important feature at the moment.
Vaccination is clearly working and is having an effect in Israel and other countries. Cases are rising in certain countries but the way forward is vaccination. Is the Taoiseach satisfied with the security of supply? Is he satisfied that the EU has got to grips with AstraZeneca? When will Ireland and individual member states have a defined timetable of vaccine supplies with regard to quantities and specified dates? Ultimately, the level of vaccines we have in Ireland is determined by the flow of vaccines into the EU. Has the Taoiseach sought to have a mechanism put in place at EU level so that we can tell people which vaccines are being supplied in the EU and provide a timetable for vaccination?
We are looking to vaccinate approximately 1 million people per month from tomorrow. That is the way forward. Our supply is, correctly, coming from the EU. We opted for diversity of supply. The UK got lucky with AstraZeneca. If AstraZeneca had not worked out, the UK would now be in a dire situation. As a small country, Ireland played the right game. Reports from Germany suggest AstraZeneca is no longer being used on people under the age of 60. What is NPHET's view on that?