Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the UK will continue to cooperate with foreign nations, including Russia, on its effort to fight the global threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Asked “why are we helping Russia out?” by the BBC radio host, Ms Bingham said: “Because this is a global pandemic and this is not a case where we protect the UK and everything else goes away.
“We have a fundamental need to ensure that all people around the world who are at risk of COVID infection get vaccinated.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Russia or Timbuktu, that is a global commitment that we the UK have made and need to continue to make so that we can ensure that everyone gets vaccinated against COVID that needs to.”
It follows accusations that Russia’s intelligence services tried to steal details of research into coronavirus vaccines.
Russia’s ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin rejected the claims and said there was “no sense” in the allegations made by Britain, the United States and Canada.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that the UK will ensure the world knows the nature of the “reprehensible behaviour” that Russia is engaged in.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Raab said it was “outrageous and reprehensible” that the Russian government is engaged in such activity.
He said: “We’re absolutely confident that the Russian intelligence agencies were engaged in a cyber attack on research and development efforts and organisations in this country and internationally with a view either to sabotage or to profit from the R&D that was taking place.
“And I think the point is, first of all we’ve seen this as part of a wider systematic approach to cyber taken by Russia, and at the time that the world is coming together to try and tackle Covid-19, particularly come up with a global solution for a vaccine, I think it’s outrageous and reprehensible that the Russian government is engaged in this activity.
“So what we’re doing with our allies is making sure people know, making sure the organisations know so that they can better defend against it, but also just calling Russia out, we will do this.
“Now you will see us holding Russia to account and making sure that the world knows the nature of the reprehensible behaviour that they’re engaged in.”
Mr Raab added: “As a leading member of the international community, a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia should be engaged in that collaborative international effort.”
Britain has signed deals to secure 90 million doses of two possible COVID-19 vaccines from an alliance of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, and French group Valneva, the business ministry said on Monday.
Britain secured 30 million doses of the experimental BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, and a deal in principle for 60 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, with an option of 40 million more doses if it was proven to be safe, effective and suitable, the ministry said.
With no working vaccine against COVID-19 yet developed, Britain now has three different types of vaccine under order and a total of 230 million doses potentially available.
“This new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk,” business minister Alok Sharma said. Financial terms were not disclosed.
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The deals follow a previously announced agreement with AstraZeneca for the firm to produce 100 million doses of its potential vaccine being developed in partnership with the University of Oxford.
Britain said it was the first such deal which Pfizer and BioNTech had agreed for the supply of their vaccine, which is being tested in early to mid stage trials.
The firms are aiming to make up to 100 million doses by the end of this year and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by end of 2021, if the vaccine is successful.
It uses the so-called messenger RNA approach, in contrast to the more traditional, inactivated whole virus vaccine being developed by Valneva.
Valneva’s potential vaccine is still in pre-clinical trials, and the company is aiming to move into clinical trials by the end of 2020.
Britain also said on Monday it had secured treatments containing COVID-19-neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca to protect people who can’t be vaccinated.