Dr Tom Black the Northern Ireland chair of the British Medical Association, argued that it would be in the UK’s self-interest to share surplus vaccine supplies with the Republic of Ireland.
He was speaking to the News Letter after First Minister Arlene Foster had expressed concern about the south’s slower roll-out, and urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to share UK supplies.
Dr Black, meanwhile, said the easing of restrictions here could be held back by a number of weeks because of the differential.
“There’s certainly an incentive for Northern Ireland to try and make sure the UK shares its vaccine with any other country in a common travel area, and that would be the Republic of Ireland,” he said
“And there’s certainly an incentive for Northern Ireland’s Executive to co-ordinate their programme of restrictions with the Republic of Ireland government, and vice versa. I think the last thing we need is outbreaks of infection in border areas which become really difficult to control.
“And we could end up with restrictions in the whole country because we can’t control border areas.
“I think that would be a profound mistake.”
On the need to co-ordinate restrictions, Dr Black continued: “Let us imagine that we open up non-essential retail, hospitality, and personal services before they do, and we get an influx into Northern Ireland who haven’t been vaccinated. That would suggest that we should co-ordinate restrictions and it would also suggest that the UK should help with supplies of vaccines.
“I’m not suggesting that we should deprive anyone in the UK of a vaccination, but there will certainly come a point during the summer where there will be spare vaccines.
“We know that the UK has ordered 300 million vaccines.” He added: “I think once you start compromising with other governments you will, naturally have to adopt the pace of the person who is slowest. If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk a long distance, walk with somebody else.
“If you get this wrong and we’re sitting here at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn and we’re sitting here with a major outbreak around the border we will have driven the public mad.
“People are just fed up with this.”