Coronavirus vaccines manufactured in British labs, partly funded by the UK taxpayer, are set to also be exported to Europe, The Telegraph has learned.

One company manufacturing the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has received almost £40m of government-funded equipment to speed up the rollout of the vaccine, and will use it to fulfill orders around the world.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses, while the EU and US have ordered 300 million each.

In May, ministers gave Oxford Biomedica, the company manufacturing the jabs, equipment for two suites costing a total of £38 million, as part of the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC).

Approval for the two suites to begin producing doses was granted by the vaccine regulator in September and October, and manufacturing has now begun.

A spokeswoman for the company said it also expected to begin exporting jabs to Europe. A decision is expected by European regulators later this month, approving the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab for use in the EU.

While government sources said any exports to Europe would not slow down the supply of the vaccine to the UK, Oxford Biomedica remains free to use the equipment to fulfill orders from any other countries.

"We’ve got an 18 month contract, I am sure that in due course we will be exporting as well into Europe,” a spokeswoman said.

Vaccination rates scenarios

Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, a former Conservative Party leader, said that in the event of any delay in manufacturing, the UK’s order should be prioritised.

“The number one purpose of the Government’s support is to ensure full, timely supply of the vaccine,” he said.

“The test is, will the company be able to fulfil its obligation of full and timely supply?

“The UK’s demand and requirement, as they were the ones that funded it, should come ahead of anybody else.”

As the NHS races to protect the most vulnerable Britons before the spring, the Prime Minister has said the supply of vaccines is the limiting factor preventing a faster rollout.

Since mid-October all three of the company’s suites have been running at full 1,000 litre capacity, but a spokeswoman was unable to disclose how many batches or doses have been made so far.

A senior government source said Oxford/AstraZeneca had so far fulfilled the vaccine delivery schedule in its contract, but suggested delays had been created by a requirement for batches of the jab to be tested by the MHRA before being administered.

If the vaccine delivery schedule is not met, the Government can sue the company and demand its contract is prioritised.

Vaccines secured by the government and current state of development 

Ministers have been reluctant to commit a specific target rate of vaccine delivery, but experts have suggested two million doses a week may need to be administered to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.

Two new manufacturing centres, also supported by UK taxpayers, will come online later this year and boost production by 70 million doses each in their first six months.

Boris Johnson has said he hopes “tens of millions” of the jabs can be rolled out before the Spring – protecting the four highest-priority groups.  

A government spokesperson said: “The UK was the first country in the world to procure and then authorise the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, of which we have purchased 100 million doses.

“Thanks to significant investment from the government, the vaccine is now being manufactured at scale in the UK for the UK population.

“Any commercial agreement Oxford Biomedica enter into to manufacture the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will in no way affect our ability to supply the UK population”.