EU nations fight over whose citizens should get the Covid vaccine first with France and Germany ‘trying to out-muscle smaller countries’
- UK won the race due to EU’s desire to agree block-wide vaccination programme
- Some nations may have since considered bypassing the EU’s medical regulator
- That led to EU Commission warning member states to tread ‘very carefully’
- Some less wealthy countries don’t have the facilities to store the drug at -70C
Bitter infighting has broken out among EU states over the allocation of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine – with France and Germany accused of trying to out-muscle smaller countries in the battle for supplies.
The EU’s determination to agree a block-wide vaccination programme across all 27 member states allowed the UK to win the race to first approve the vaccine.
It led EU nations to accuse Britain of cutting corners, with the EU Commission warning member states they should tread ‘very carefully’ if they were considering bypassing the EU’s medical regulator, the European Medicines Agency, which it claims is more rigorous and requires more evidence to be submitted than the MHRA.
The EU’s determination to agree a block-wide vaccination programme across all 27 member states allowed the UK to win the race to first approve the vaccine
Diplomatic sources say the larger countries, such as France and Germany, were locked in negotiations with other member states about which EU citizens should be given priority – and whether the economic differences between them will make it impossible to roll it out simultaneously across countries.
Some of the less wealthy EU countries, such as Poland and Hungary, do not have the refrigeration facilities to store the drug at -70C, meaning it could be well into the new year before the inoculations start there.
It has led to demands within Hungary for approval of Russia’s controversial Sputnik V vaccine, which is undergoing trials despite a lack of publicly available data.
A source said: ‘On issues such as the vaccine, the EU is a slow and unresponsive bloc. The discussions are proving to be a nightmare’.
British officials said Brexit helped speed up approval because MHRA experts were no longer bogged down doing EU assessment work, so had a greater capacity to respond to the application.
When Guido Rasi, the former head of the EMA, claimed that Britain had only evaluated ‘the partial data’, he was criticised by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam, who said: ‘If you’re a regulator who is slightly behind, what do you say to justify your position? Words such as the ones you’ve heard perhaps.’
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