The UK will first inoculate all its adult residents before distributing COVID-19 vaccines abroad.
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News the “focus has to be to try and keep Britain safe”.
“We want to work cooperatively as well with other countries but the main priority is to get the vaccine rollout,” he said.
“If there are surplus vaccine doses then we can share them but there are no surpluses at the moment, we have still got a huge number to vaccinate.”
Kwarteng stressed that it is not a competition with Europe and the government is working with neighbouring countries to ensure they get enough doses.
As of Monday, 30.4mln people in the UK received their first dose of the Oxford-Astrazeneca (LON:AZN) and Biontech-Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) vaccines, with 3.6mln covered with both, in one of the world’s fastest rollouts.
In total, the UK has secured access to over 400mln total doses of vaccines for 2021 and 2022, most of which have to be administered in two jabs. Other vaccines coming from Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) are in production, while the UK has ordered 40mln from Valneva (OTCMKTS:INRLF), if it gains regulatory approval.
The latest daily cases were 4,654, with 23 deaths.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference on Monday night, where he noted there will be more cases and deaths as restrictions are eased.
Speaking from the new £2.6mln press briefing room in Downing Street, he said cases can’t be allowed to surge and it’s unclear how vaccines will perform in a ‘real-world’ setting, especially in the face of a large rise in cases.
Analysts at Shore Capital noted that this is why all restrictions haven’t been released at the same time and why there are five-week gaps between each reopening step.
“The belief is that if cases rapidly surged, even if the vaccine had a “real-world” efficacy of 90%, then a sufficient number of people could be infected and still succumb to severe illness meaning a risk that parts of the National Health Service (NHS) could be overwhelmed,” they commented.
“It was a cautious press conference as we expected and England’s strategy is currently trying to balance an inevitable rise in cases as restrictions are loosened, alongside a concern that if cases rise too quickly, the incomplete protection from vaccines could mean a risk of the NHS being overwhelmed.”
“The predominant view is likely that “trickling” cases through step-by-step prevents cases from rising too quickly and that vaccinating younger age groups should further stunt this growth on the assumption that the vaccine has some impact on transmission.”