In Brief

Coronavirus: French and Belgian ministers ‘mock’ UK rollout of world’s first Covid vaccine

EU politicians rush to remind Boris Johnson that Pfizer jab is ‘made in Europe’

Vaccine

Boris Johnson’s celebrations over Britain becoming the world’s first nation to roll out a vaccine for Covid-19 have been greeted with mockery from some other European leaders.

Amid widespread jubilation yesterday as the NHS began vaccinating patients against the coronavirus, Johnson tweeted a “thank you to our NHS, to all of the scientists who worked so hard to develop this vaccine”, adding: “We will beat this together.”

But in what The Brussels Times identifies as a “dig” at the British prime minister, his Belgian counterpart Alexander de Croo responded with a tweet showing an image of an EU flag and the words “Made in Europe” above Johnson’s post. In case de Croo failed to make his point, the newspaper clarifies that “a large part of the vaccine, which was developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, was in fact produced in Belgium”.

France’s Europe minister, Clement Beaune, also weighed in to set the record straight, tweeting: “You don’t base a strategy on just one vaccine. Europe has contracts for at least six vaccines. It’s not just a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Beaune has defended the bloc’s cautious approach to approving the vaccine candidates, telling French television channel RMC Decouverte last week that the 27 EU member states had “opted for the collective approach – for speed and for safety”. Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, added that the European approach was a “more comprehensive one” that would “strengthen citizens’ confidence in the vaccine”.

Belgium and France have also faced off against Britain by voicing skepticism about the possibility of achieving a Brexit trade deal. Addressing alongside de Croo last week, Emmanuel Macron warned that “France will not accept a Brexit deal that does not respect our long term interests”. 

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