A CABINET minister said the Government has not ruled out the re-routing abroad of any surplus Covid vaccine originally earmarked for UK citizens.

Speaking on Sky News today, Trade Secretary Liz Truss was also critical of what she termed, “vaccine nationalism and protectionism”.

She said it would not benefit the UK if Britain becomes a “vaccinated island”, while the disease continues to ravage neighbouring countries.

Ministers and officials are understood to be giving consideration to the possibility some of its vaccine supplies could be sent overseas once the most vulnerable domestic recipients have received the jab, providing it does not slow plans for all adults to be vaccinated by the autumn.

Ms Truss said: “It’s a bit too early to say how we would deploy excess vaccines.

“But we certainly want to work with friends and neighbours.

“We want to work with developing countries, because we are only going to solve this issue once everybody in the world is vaccinated.”

Accepting the possibility of some supply issues, she said: “So, we need to make sure the new drugs that are coming online are delivered and the population is vaccinated.

“But, of course, as we are developing that, we are also working with other countries about how we can help.

“It won’t benefit people in Britain if we become a vaccinated island and many other countries don’t have the vaccine, because the virus will continue to spread, so we need to tackle this on a global basis.”

Ms Truss said the UK can “absolutely guarantee” its planned programme of Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

She said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to ensure contractual supplies will not be disrupted.

“That's a very important assurance and, of course, we also have our UK-produced vaccines as well.

“If you look at our vaccines pipeline, 367 million doses, we have a significant supply to be able to vaccinate the UK population.”

Ms Truss said: “We can absolutely guarantee our programme of delivery of the vaccine.

“We have received assurances from the EU about the supply, under contract, of all of those vaccines.”

She added that “vaccine protectionism” is “problematic” in what is a global pandemic.