Commission hits back at claims that UK approved COVID-19 vaccine first because it is a ‘much better country’

The Commission’s chief spokesman said, “This is not a football competition. It is about the lives of people.”

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Dec 2020

Pfizer-BioNTech's Coronavirus vaccine was packed for shipment on Wednesday and arrived in the UK on Thursday - making the UK the first country in the world to receive the vaccine ready for administering.

The jab is being made by the pharmaceutical company in Puurs, a small Belgian town south of Antwerp, and it will be transported to Britain on planes and lorries.

On Wednesday, the UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the UK had approved a Coronavirus vaccine first because it is a “much better country” than France, Belgium and the US.

Williamson praised the work done by the medical regulator to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use.

Williamson said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has “brilliant” experts and the UK's status as the first country to approve a vaccine is due to its superior experts.

“I am convinced the regulators in the UK are very good, but we are not getting in the game of comparing regulators across one European country and another. This is not a football competition, but about the lives of people” Eric Mamer, European Commission chief spokesman

He said “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 because we're a much better country than every single one of them.”

Addressing a news briefing on Thursday, European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer was asked about the comments by Williamson and his claim that medical regulators in the UK are “better.”

Mamer said, “I am convinced the regulators in the UK are very good, but we are not getting in the game of comparing regulators across one European country and another.”

“This is not a football competition but about the lives of people,” he told reporters via a virtual news conference.

“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 because we're a much better country than every single one of them” Gavin Williamson, UK Education Secretary

He added, “We have in Europe a highly developed system, which, by the way, still applies to the UK, of approving authorisation of vaccines and medical productions to get them to market.”

Elsewhere, Renew Europe MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir told this site, “We have faith in the EMA’s approval process, which is based on the highest standards.”

“This Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is first and foremost an international and European achievement. We are facing a global pandemic, there is no room for vaccine nationalism.”

Meanwhile, UK Commons leader and arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg took a swipe at the EU as he accused them of getting “sniffy” over the UK's quick approval of the Coronavirus vaccine, praising the move as a “British success.”

He said, “As regards Brexit and the vaccine, the UK should be really proud that our regulator got in first. We notice that the European regulator’s a bit sniffy about it, wishes that we hadn't done it. Germany, France and other European countries haven't managed to do the same thing.”

“We have and we’re leaving. Draw your own conclusions, as I’m sure the British public will.”

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