Northern Ireland news

Concern over Northern Ireland being 'tied' to EU vaccine policy from 2022

Clarity has been sought about the impact of EU Brexit rule changes on Northern Ireland's access to medicines

CONCERNS have been raised about the impact of Brexit EU rules on the delivery of certain medicines to Northern Ireland at the end of this year.

TUV leader Jim Allister sought clarity from health minister Robin Swann on the issue and warned it could have serious implications for future vaccine rollout if the north is "tied to the failed and failing EU policy on vaccination".

Following the implementation of the NI Protocol on January 1, medicines for the north and Great Britain are regulated under different regimes but overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

In response to a written Assembly question, Mr Swann told Mr Allister that Northern Ireland was only part of the UK’s vaccine rollout because of a year-long grace period stipulated by the protocol.

"The UK Government and the EU Commission agreed a 12-month period to allow industry time to prepare for the regulatory and supply chain changes that will be required to comply with the protocol by January 1, 2022," he said.

"A long-term approach was also sought to ensure no barriers to the movement of medicines into Northern Ireland."

Mr Swann noted correspondence sent by Michael Gove to European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic seeking an extension to the grace period for medicines until at least January 2023.

The EU has been beset by coronavirus vaccine supply issues, which has impacted on the Republic and stalled its rollout.

Mr Allister said the health minister's response showed that "in simple terms, Northern Ireland is only able to benefit from the UK’s successful vaccine rollout now because of a grace period. But for the grace period, we would be tied to the failed and failing EU policy on vaccination."

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