Brexit might compromise UK’s ability to secure coronavirus vaccine quickly and cheaply

epa08264662 A staff member operates an intelligent dispensing machine for the production of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for coronavirus and COVID-19 patients in Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, 02 March 2020. The hospital has been using a mixture of TCM and western drugs to treat people infected with the coronavirus. Although there is no specific treatment for the COVID-19 disease, more than 80 percent of China's coronavirus patients were prescribed the use of TCM alongside Western drugs with experts citing a higher recovery rate compared to just the use of mainstream treatments, according to local reports. EPA-EFE/YFC CHINA OUT

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Brexit may have yet another unintended consequence — compromising the country’s ability to secure a coronavirus vaccine quickly and cheaply.

According to POLITICO the current best estimates put the delivery date for a vaccine over a year away. That’s beyond the Brexit transition period, meaning that the U.K. could by then be outside the authority of the EU’s medicines regulator, the European Medicines Agency.

The European Medicines Agency is representing a patient pool of 500 million-odd patients,” said Olivier Wouters, assistant professor of health policy at the London School of Economics. “That seems like a more lucrative market for a drug company or a vaccine maker to prioritize.”

What some lawmakers, such as Green peer Natalie Bennett, want to know is whether the government plans to seek special access to the EMA’s rapid approval system.

The Telegraph  adds that coronavirus perfectly reveals one of the key flaws in the UK government’s stance on its future relationship with the EU. It is determined to ‘take back control’ of its affairs, even when this  necessitates its withdrawal from tried and tested systems necessary for its own security, such as the EU’s highly interlinked health security regime.

There is another problem. POLITICO says that “The U.K. is already outside the EU’s joint procurement of medical countermeasures that enables EU member countries to combine their buying power to secure access to vital medicines and medical products in the event of a threat to human health. During the coronavirus outbreak, the mechanism has been activated to procure public protective equipment such as masks.

The EU hasn’t exercised this power yet with respect to a vaccine or treatment for the virus, because none exist. However, Malta’s Health Minister Chris Fearne has called for the EU to jointly procure a vaccine.

Wouters said that bandying together gives Europe more leverage and buying power when negotiating a price with companies, even though some countries, such as Sweden, have a record of keeping medicines prices low all on their own.”

Via POLITICO / Telegraph 


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