France’s Europe minister has made the breathtaking claim the UK is making the wrong calls with its vaccine strategy, which has administered far more Covid injections than any country in the EU.
In a punishing interview with France Inter, Macron ally, Clément Beaune backed to the hilt the EU’s widely criticized vaccine roll-out and said he was instead worried about the UK’s approach.
“They are taking a lot of risks during their vaccination campaign, I can understand that,” said Beaune.
“Clearly because they’re in a difficult health situation, they’re taking these extra risks.
“I don’t think our public would accept that we take all those risks against the advice of our scientists.”
Following a tide of tough questions on France’s latest lockdown, which triggered yellow vest demonstrations this weekend, Beaune was asked whether the EU had mishandled its Covid-19 vaccine scheme. Is this “the best advertisement for Brexit?” queried interviewer, Léa Salamé.
“I don’t think so. This has nothing to do with Brexit,” Beaune replied.
On Friday, Emmanuel Macron appeared to contradict himself in both supporting the EU’s desperate measures to access more of the Oxford vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca while also questioning the effectiveness of the jab without any evidence to back up his claims.
In highlighting the “extra risks” Beaune was looking to energise Macron’s bizarre PR battle against the Oxford vaccine while piling on yet more dubious claims.
Enduring challenging questions from Salamé on why the EU was not measuring up to the UK in delivering life-saving Covid injections, Beaune said he was sceptical of Britain’s decision to delay follow-up jabs, a measure taken by the UK government to vaccinate more people earlier.
“Our scientists tell us you mustn’t do that,” he said.
However, according to Anthony Harden, deputy chairman of the government’s vaccine committee, the decision to delay second jabs looks promising.
“The effect seems to increase over time. It is possible we may get stronger and better long-term protection by a delayed second dose,” said Harden.
Beaune seemed to deride the UK for “relying primarily” on the Oxford vaccine even though France is known to prefer it as an option for sending injections out directly to people’s homes. Furthermore, the UK has heavily diversified its inoculation strategy, and started off with the Pfizer/BioNTech injection.
Beaune has been at the centre of the EU’s attempts to keep battling against AstraZeneca after the manufacturer won last week’s dispute with the bloc hands down.
Last night, the European Commission president announced a “step forward” in securing 40 million doses from the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant, even though that is still only around half the amount the EU originally thought it would be getting.
In the meantime, EU member states are understood to be planning to throw the book at AZ with investigations and litigation.
“If there is a problem and that other countries have been favoured – for example, the UK over us – then we will defend our interests,” Beaune said yesterday.
“Contracts are not moral commitments, they are legal commitments. Penalties or sanctions can be triggered in every contract.”
Brussels claims it should be on a level footing with rivals like the UK for vaccine supplies. However, AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU clearly states the manufacturer is not bound to fulfil its commitment of vaccine. The UK deal is believed to be much tighter.
Beaune’s exacting interview over EU failures in vaccine procurement will not be the last. It probably will not be the toughest either.