News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 10 March 2021

Media Summary

COVID-19: UK rejects ‘completely false’ EU vaccine export ban claim
BBC News, Gavin Stamp, 09 March

BBC News reports that a fresh row has broken out between the UK and the EU after the bloc’s most senior official suggested the UK had banned all COVID-19 vaccine exports.

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, wrongly claimed the UK had an “outright ban” on exports of vaccines produced on its soil. The BBC understands Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has written to him to say the claims are “completely false”.

This is the second time since the start of the year that the UK and EU have disagreed over the issue of the production and distribution of Coronavirus vaccines. In January, the EU introduced a new system of controls on vaccine exports amid concerns over availability of supplies on the continent, requiring producers to seek permission from national governments for planned sales.

The move sparked a wider row with the UK about the functioning of post-Brexit trade arrangements relating to Northern Ireland agreed by the two sides last year.

This news was covered by a number of outlets, including The TelegraphFinancial Times and Politico.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Importing medicines into Northern Ireland before 31 December 2021
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, 09 March

The MHRA has updated its guidance on ‘Importing medicines into Northern Ireland before 31 December 2021’.

This follows the European Union publication of the EU Commission notice updated on 25 January 2021 on the Application of the Union’s pharmaceutical acquis in markets historically dependent on medicines supply from or through Great Britain after the end of the transition period. The notice places a reporting obligation on industry to notify the MHRA for medicines imported into Northern Ireland.

For products approved in the UK before 31 January 2021, the EU Commission Notice means that, for all UK licenced medicines within a company’s portfolio, companies will seek to make use of these flexibilities unless the MHRA is directly informed otherwise. This will be the basis for MHRA enforcement until 31 December 2021.

For products approved in the UK after 31 January 2021 and before 31 December 2021, the EU Commission Notice means that these flexibilities apply to all new products and you only need to notify the MHRA if you do not plan to make use of the flexibilities. This will be the basis for MHRA enforcement until 31 December 2021.

You can read the guidance in full here.

COVID-19 vaccine supply and manufacturing in the UK
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, 09 March

Yesterday Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, delivered a speech at the Global COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain and Manufacturing Summit at Chatham House.

Mr Hancock took this opportunity to detail the success of the UK’s vaccine roll-out, which for him was a result of hard work and diligent planning.

Turning to the global vaccine supply chain, Mr Hancock highlighted the need to broaden access; to remove tariffs where they apply; and to better share data on efficacy and trials. He stressed that this was a global effort, and therefore vaccine protectionism should be opposed.

You can read a full transcript for his speech here.

House of Lords – Written Question, 09 March

Wera Hobhouse (Liberal Democrat, Bath): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of levels of funding provided to community pharmacy owners during the COVID-19 outbreak.

House of Commons – Written Answer, 09 March

Sarah Owen (Labour, Luton North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans he has to allocate additional funding to community pharmacies to help them cover costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jo Churchill (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds): Discussions are ongoing with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee about additional funding for costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as the increased advance payments, general COVID-19 business support has been accessible to most community pharmacies, including the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant and business rate relief. Additional payments have been made to support opening hours on Bank Holidays, social distancing and the medicine delivery service to shielded patients. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided free of charge and pharmacies are reimbursed for PPE already purchased. Non-monetary support provided during the pandemic included the removal of some administrative tasks, flexibility in opening hours and the delayed introduction of new services.

Call for Written Evidence: “Post Brexit and Post COVID Reviews and Consultations-are we going far and fast enough?”
APPG on Access to Medicines and Medical Devices, 08 March

COVID and Brexit have both accelerated change in the access to medicines and medical devices space. The Life Sciences industry, patients and other stakeholders involved in the access agenda have an opportunity to put medicines and medical devices high up on the Government’s agenda to achieve a long-term resilient, sustainable health and care system in which they play a fundamental part.

In parallel, NICE and the MHRA have both been looking at how to improve their own processes, and how these can be streamlined. The APPG is therefore calling for evidence on the changes being proposed as part of this review, at a strategic rather than operational level. Ultimately, the APPG is seeking to answer the following question: ‘Are we going far enough and fast enough to keep pace with the changes in the health and care environment we face post Brexit and post COVID.’

This call for written evidence will therefore be conducted in three parts:

  • Part A: NICE – a three part consultation for change (responses by 24 March 2021)
  • Part B: MHRA – a new role as an international regulator (responses by 12 April 2021)
  • Part C: Government – a White Paper: Integration and Innovation (responses by 10 May 2021)

The APPG is seeking responses to Part A by Wednesday 24 March 2021, and the second and third parts of the call for evidence will follow.

House of Commons – Written Answer, 08 March

Kate Hollern (Labour, Blackburn): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of waiving the repayment of the £370 million allocated to community pharmacies during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jo Churchill (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds): Discussions are ongoing with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) on additional funding for costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PSNC has proposed that the £370 million increased advance payments are not paid back to cover the COVID-19 costs incurred by community pharmacies. That proposal is being looked at as part of the Government’s ongoing assessment of COVID-19 costs incurred by the sector.

Free rapid tests for all businesses for regular workplace testing
Department of Health and Social Care, 06 March

All businesses in England are now able to sign up to the Government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing programme. As part of the Government’s roadmap to cautiously lift restrictions, businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees.

An online portal has been launched for businesses to find out more about offering rapid workplace testing. Businesses will be provided with all the information they need to plan and deliver their testing programme, along with promotional materials.

All local authorities in England are now offering rapid lateral flow testing for small businesses if they can’t offer rapid workplace testing. Businesses can find their local test site online.

You can read the full press release here.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19: UK rejects ‘completely false’ EU vaccine export ban claim
BBC News, Gavin Stamp, 09 March

A fresh row has broken out between the UK and the EU after the bloc’s most senior official suggested the UK had banned all COVID-19 vaccine exports.

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, wrongly claimed the UK had an “outright ban” on exports of vaccines produced on its soil.

The BBC understands Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has written to him to say the claims are “completely false”.

An EU representative has been summoned for “further discussions”.

It is the second time since the start of the year that the UK and EU have been at loggerheads over the issue of the production and distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

In January, the EU introduced a new system of controls on vaccine exports amid concerns over availability of supplies on the continent, requiring producers to seek permission from national governments for planned sales.

The move sparked a wider row with the UK about the functioning of post-Brexit trade arrangements relating to Northern Ireland agreed by the two sides last year.

The EU drafted regulations which would have overridden the Northern Ireland Protocol and allowed it to potentially stop vaccines bound for Northern Ireland – although it backed down following widespread criticism.

The bloc’s leaders have been under pressure over the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent, compared with the UK, where 22.5 million people – a third of the adult population – have received their first dose.

Earlier this month, Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia.

In his weekly briefing note, Mr Michel – who represents the bloc’s 27 members – said he was shocked when he heard the EU being accused of “vaccine nationalism” as the bloc had “never stopped exporting”.

“Here again, the facts do not lie,” he wrote.

“The United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.

“But the European Union, the region with the largest vaccine production capacity in the world, has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”

In response, the BBC understands Mr Raab has written to Mr Michel to “set the record straight”, expressing concern that the “false claim has been repeated at various levels within the EU and the Commission”.

His letter is understood to say: “The UK government has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components. Any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false.”

He added: “We are all facing this pandemic together.”

After news of the row broke, Mr Michel tweeted that there were “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines/medicines”.

The EU has faced production problems with three leading vaccines.

The rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was delayed in some countries because of a temporary reduction in deliveries, to enable Pfizer to increase capacity at its processing plant in Belgium.

Distribution of the Moderna jab also ran into problems, with Italy and France both saying they were receiving fewer vaccines than expected.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been in short supply within the EU as well, with production shortfalls at plants in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The UK, which is expected to have a large surplus of vaccines after ordering 400 million doses, has said it will donate most of those left over to poorer countries.

The UK, which left the EU in January 2020, is one of the leading financial backers of the Covax scheme, which aims to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has said richer countries should send up to 5% of their current vaccine supplies to poorer nations.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 10 March 2021

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