In Brief

EU leaders argue about vaccine approval delays

Angry bloc members demand to know why regulators are taking longer to approve jab than their UK peers

The EU is launching a push to approve the Pfizer/ BioNTech coronavirus vaccine next week, after European leaders demanded to know why the approval process on the continent is taking longer than that in the UK.

Bloomberg says countries’ leaders have “struggled to explain” to their respective nations why they’re still waiting for shots that are already being rolled out in the US and UK - a “particular sore spot” given that the Pfizer vaccine was pioneered in Germany.

German newspaper Bild has complained in an editorial that “Britain, Canada and the USA have started vaccinating - and we are standing and gawping”.

With European leaders pressing for a compressed approval timeline for the vaccine, the European Drugs Agency has announced that a key advisory committee meeting, originally planned for after Christmas, will be brought forward to Monday.

The European Commission hopes to clear the way for shipping of the first shots to vaccine centres to begin as early as next Wednesday.

According to reports, discussions over the timing of the approval became “heated” during an EU summit last week, with several national experts accused of being slow in responding to the European Medicines Agency.

Politico says the UK managed to green-light the Pfizer jab so quickly by exploiting “an EU mechanism that allows member countries to temporarily approve a drug during an emergency” .

Although EU countries would be able to approve the vaccine under the same regulations, they wouldn’t be able to receive doses of the jab as these have been negotiated at EU level.

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