No10 hits back after Belgium claims UK’s Covid vaccines ‘not to same standard’ as EU’s

EU 'don't have a plan' for vaccine rollout says expert

In a television interview, Belgium’s deputy prime minister Petra De Sutter compared Britain, as well as Israel, to Russia and China. So far over 1.3 million people in the UK have received a coronavirus vaccine – more than the whole of the EU put together.

Criticising Britain’s inoculation scheme, Ms De Sutter said: “The EU has opted for certainty and wants to maintain confidence by correctly following the procedure.

“Not only the United Kingdom and Israel but also Russia and China are vaccinating people with vaccines that do not have the same standard as the ones we use.”

Her jibe came despite the UK and EU using the same vaccine to immunise the population.

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus antidote was approved for use in Britain on December 2 with the UK the first country in the world to administer it.

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The EU followed suit on December 21.

Britain has also rolled out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca formula with Brussels currently examining the data in the hope of approving that jab too.

The EU has faced an angry backlash for the slowness of its vaccine programme with the bloc lagging behind other countries in approving jabs and the pace of the rollout.

Responding to the swipe at Britain, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman rejected the critique and said the independent medical regulator had concluded the vaccines were safe.

He said: “I would point back to what Dr June Raine said in authorising both vaccines.

“They are both safe and effective and the public should have confidence in them and the public should come forward and take them when asked.”

The Government has set a target of giving coronavirus jabs to all the critically vulnerable by the middle of next month.

The target to vaccinate over 13 million people by February 15 would require at least two million doses to be administered a week.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi described the target as “ambitious” but said the NHS would rise to the challenge.

“It is an ambitious plan. The Prime Minister is right to set an ambitious target. The NHS has a very clear plan and I am confident that we can meet it,” he said.

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He added: “You will see from Monday a significant increase from the 1.3 million that we have done from December 8.”

Describing a “Herculean” effort to boost numbers, he said: “We’ve got a fantastic team working, seven days a week, all hours to deliver this.

“No doubt, it is a stretching target.

“But I think it’s one that we should absolutely look to deliver.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he hopes coronavirus restrictions can begin to be relaxed once all the most vulnerable in the UK have been inoculated.

He told the Commons today: “After the marathon of last year we are indeed now in a sprint, a race to vaccinate the vulnerable faster than the virus can reach them.

“Every needle in every arm makes a difference.”

He added: “Our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.”

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