Minister boasts vaccine approval speed proves UK ‘much better country’ than others


Britain was the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine because it has “much better” regulators than France, Belgium and the US, a senior minister has claimed.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson boasted that “we’re a much better country than every single one of them” – after some international disquiet surfaced following the breakthrough jab news.

Government ministers and scientific advisers have said no corners were cut in the approval of the Pfizer/ BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and that it has fully met all safety standards, meaning rollout can begin next week.

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But Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, said regulators there follow a “gold standard” while the UK “did not do it as carefully”.

“If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated,” he cautioned.

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It follows Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, saying the UK used an emergency process to authorise a coronavirus vaccine and that politicians there had decided against such a strategy to boost confidence in the jab’s safety.

Dismissing the criticism, Mr Williamson told LBC: “Well I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators.

Gavin Williamson is asked if he will have coronavirus vaccine on live television
Gavin Williamson said he would take the vaccine live on TV

“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, aren’t we?”

The Pfizer vaccine is being bought from Belgium, with 40 million doses on order and 800,000 of those expected to arrive soon.

Mr Williamson also volunteered to get vaccinated live on air, when he spoke to Sky News.

“I’m sure your viewers have better things to watch than me having a vaccine live on TV,” he told Kay Burley.

“And by the time it gets to my turn to have the vaccine, I imagine I’ll be pretty far down the pecking order. As there’s a lot more important people to have the vaccine before me.

“But if you really think your viewers would be that interested to see me have a vaccine I’m sure I would do it.”

The prospect was raised of Boris Johnson also getting the jab on TV, when he is eligible to.

How COVID-19 vaccines ordered by the UK compare
How COVID-19 vaccines ordered by the UK compare

Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s press secretary, said: “We all know the character of the prime minister, I don’t think it would be something that he would rule out.

“But what we also know is that he wouldn’t want to take a jab that should be for somebody who is extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable, and who should be getting it before him.”

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