Publishedduration14 minutes ago
The UK is getting a coronavirus vaccine first because it is a “much better country” than France, Belgium and the US, says the education secretary.
Some UK ministers claim Brexit speeded the process up – but Gavin Williamson said it was down to having superior medical experts.
On Wednesday the UK’s medical regulator was the first to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use.
The EU said it was “definitely not in the game of comparing regulators”.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s decision means the vaccine will start to be rolled out to the most vulnerable people from next week.
‘Not football competition’
People will need two doses, three weeks apart, so the vaccination project is expected to take several months to complete.
Speaking to LBC radio on Thursday, Mr Williamson 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 at all, because we’re a much better country than every single one of them.”
He said the UK had a “real competitive advantage, but do you know who it’s down to? It’s down to those brilliant, brilliant clinicians in the regulator who’ve made it happen so fast, so our thanks go out to them because by doing what they’ve done, they’re going to have saved lives.”
But European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the MHRA’s experts are “very good” but “we are definitely not in the game of comparing regulators across countries, nor on commenting on claims as to who is better”.
“This is not a football competition, we are talking about the life and health of people,” he said.
But some have expressed concern that the UK approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine too quickly.
“The way the FDA is, our FDA is doing it, is the correct way,” Dr Fauci said. “We really scrutinize the data very carefully to guarantee to the American public that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine.”
He added: “I think if we did any less, we would add to the already existing hesitancy on the part of many people to take the vaccine because they’re concerned about safety or they’re concerned that we went too quickly.”
Both the MHRA and the EU have rejected Mr Hancock’s claim that Brexit allowed the UK to “speed up” doing “all the same safety checks and the same processes” as the EU.
The MHRA’s chief executive, Dr June R