‘We’re a much better country’: Gavin Williamson wades into Brexit vaccine row with blast at EU

Gavin Williamson waded into the row over whether Brexit helped Britain move faster to roll out a coronavirus vaccine today, claiming that the UK was simply ‘a much better country’ than its rivals.

The Education Secretary lashed out at the US, France and Belgium in an astonishing broadside in a radio interview this morning.

Ministers have faced a backlash after several, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, claimed the split from the EU and less red tape meant the UK beat the rest of the world to approve the new coronavirus vaccine.

European figures dismissed the idea, as did the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Asked about the comments today on LBC radio, Mr Williamson said: ‘Well I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulator, much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. 

‘That doesn’t surprise me at because we’re a much better country than every single one of them.’

Pressed by presenter Nick Ferrari to be clearer on the issue of whether Brexit did help, he added:  ‘I think just being able to get on with things, deliver it and the brilliant people in our medical regulator making it happen means that people in this country are going to be the first ones in the western world to get that Pfizer, in the world to get that Pfizer vaccine. 

‘Real competitive advantage, but do you know who it’s down to? It’s down to those brilliant, brilliant clinicians in the regulator who’s made it happen so fast, so our thanks go out to them because by doing want they’ve done, they’re going to have saved lives.’

But Sage member Jeremy Farrer, the director of the Wellcome Trust, lashed out at his claims.

‘Vaccine nationalism has no place in COVID or other public health matters of global significance. Science has always been the exit strategy from this horrendous pandemic – that science has been global & has needed an unprecedented global partnerships & global financing,’ he tweeted.  

The Education Secretary lashed out at the US, France and Belgium in an astonishing broadside in a radio interview this morning

The Education Secretary lashed out at the US, France and Belgium in an astonishing broadside in a radio interview this morning

The Education Secretary lashed out at the US, France and Belgium in an astonishing broadside in a radio interview this morning

Matt Hancock (pictured in Downing Street today) boasted yesterday that the Europeans were 'moving a little bit more slowly' due to extra red tape - but stressed that the Pfizer BioNTech jab had gone through intense safety checks.

Matt Hancock (pictured in Downing Street today) boasted yesterday that the Europeans were 'moving a little bit more slowly' due to extra red tape - but stressed that the Pfizer BioNTech jab had gone through intense safety checks.

Matt Hancock (pictured in Downing Street today) boasted yesterday that the Europeans were ‘moving a little bit more slowly’ due to extra red tape – but stressed that the Pfizer BioNTech jab had gone through intense safety checks.

Has Brexit helped win the vaccine race?

Acting alone has helped the UK authorise the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine before the EU, but it not down to any legal change stemming from the split.

Rather it has been the political decision by Brussels to act together at 27 countries with deliberate caution that has slowed down the bloc, allowing Britain to get there first.

Yesterday the Health Secretary boasted that the Europeans were ‘moving a little bit more slowly’ due to extra red tape that did not apply in the UK any more.

But the MHRA chief June Rise later pointed out it made its decision for Britain under European law, which still binds the UK until the transition period ends in January.

UK officials have been quick to point out that no corners have been cut in approving the jab this week.

But the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has suggested that it is imposing more stringent checks than the emergency process used by the MHRA.

The EMA believes that its conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) process is ‘the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency’.

A CMA application is supported by ‘extensive data’ submitted by companies and ‘provides a controlled and robust framework’.

Dr Berkeley Phillips, medical director of Pfizer UK, compared the process to a book, with the necessary chapters written but not yet fully bound into a complete work.

He told reporters: ‘In an emergency situation, the MHRA have effectively said ‘We can see what we need to see from those chapters in this book – the book still needs to be written in totality – but, given the crisis that we’re in, we have seen enough to be confident to give this emergency authorisation’.’

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‘Public health interventions, vaccines, diagnostics & treatments now starting to be available because of those partnerships. 

‘Every single one come about by work across borders. Vaccines made possible by science & support of so many. No country could have delivered these vaccines.’

Yesterday the Health Secretary boasted that the Europeans were ‘moving a little bit more slowly’ due to extra red tape – but stressed that the Pfizer BioNTech jab that will be rolled out next week had still gone through intense safety checks. 

However, the MHRA quickly played down the idea, saying the approval was made using provisions under European law, which still binds the UK until the transition period ends in January. 

MHRA chief June Raine said it is still bound by EU law until the end of the year and ‘our progress has been totally dependent on the availability of data in our rolling review and the independent advice we have received’. 

German MEP Pieter Liese weighed in to insist individual EU member states could have authorised the vaccine but had chosen to wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to examine more information rather than follow the ‘hasty’ example of Britain. 

The European regulator has criticised the approval of the vaccine using emergency powers, insisting that its own, slower approach is more appropriate. 

Meanwhile, Berlin’s ambassador to the UK issued a sharp retort after Business Secretary Alok Sharma said history would remember the ‘UK led humanity’s charge against this disease’. 

Andreas Michaelis pointed out that BioNTech was a German firm, adding: ‘Why is it so difficult to recognise this important step forward as a great international effort and success?’

Mr Hancock kicked off the row in a round of interviews this morning, telling Times Radio: ‘The reason we’ve been able to move this fast, and the UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically authorised vaccine, the reason is twofold.

‘Firstly, because the MRHA has done a great job of working with the company to look at that data as it’s come through and do things in parallel, rather than one after the other as they normally would, that’s the first reason.

‘The second reason is because, whilst until earlier this year we were in the European Medicines Agency (EMA), because of Brexit we’ve been able to make a decision to do this based on the UK regulator, a world-class regulator, and not go at the pace of the Europeans, who are moving a little bit more slowly.

 

Berlin's ambassador to the UK issued a sharp retort after Business Secretary Alok Sharma said history would remember the 'UK led humanity's charge against this disease'

Berlin's ambassador to the UK issued a sharp retort after Business Secretary Alok Sharma said history would remember the 'UK led humanity's charge against this disease'

Berlin’s ambassador to the UK issued a sharp retort after Business Secretary Alok Sharma said history would remember the ‘UK led humanity’s charge against this disease’

The UK's Medicines and healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said saying the approval of the Pfizer vaccine (pictured) was made using provisions under European law

The UK's Medicines and healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said saying the approval of the Pfizer vaccine (pictured) was made using provisions under European law

The UK’s Medicines and healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said saying the approval of the Pfizer vaccine (pictured) was made using provisions under European law

‘We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they’re done because of Brexit.’

Mr Liese, who sits on the European Parliament’s public health committee and is a member of Angela Merkel’s CDU party, said: ‘I consider this decision to be problematic and recommend that EU member states do not repeat the process in the same way.

‘A few weeks of thorough examination by the EMA is better than a hasty emergency marketing authorisation of a vaccine.’

He suggested that the move could have been influenced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s domestic difficulties.

‘Britain now has nearly 60,000 corona deaths. Add to this the fact that Britain is an island and has never been a Schengen member, which means open borders in Europe,’ he said.

‘Britain would have to compare itself more with countries like New Zealand or Ireland, which have a much better grip on the infection rate.’

The EMA suggested that it was imposing more stringent checks than the emergency process used by the MHRA.

At a press briefing, MHRA chief Dr June Raine (pictured) said: 'We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until January 1.'

At a press briefing, MHRA chief Dr June Raine (pictured) said: 'We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until January 1.'

At a press briefing, MHRA chief Dr June Raine (pictured) said: ‘We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until January 1.’

A spokeswoman said ‘The temporary authorisation of the vaccine by the MHRA is not a marketing authorisation.

‘It differs from marketing authorisations in the level of evidence submitted and checks required.’

The EMA believes that the conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) process is ‘the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency’.

A CMA application is supported by ‘extensive data’ submitted by companies and ‘provides a controlled and robust framework’.

BioNTech is a German firm and ministers’ attempts to portray the approval as a UK success story were criticised by the Berlin government. 

Downing Street stopped short of backing Mr Hancock’s claim about Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It is clear that we are the first country in the world to approve this vaccine and it is incredibly positive news that we will be able to start to distribute it.’

Link hienalouca.com

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