An ally of Emmanuel Macron today risked reigniting cross-channel tensions by swiping that the UK is ‘taking risks’ with its vaccine rollout.
Europe minister Clement Beaune delivered the extraordinary jibe as he scrambled to justify the shambolic progress with jabs in the EU.
After the bloc was forced into an humiliating climbdown over its threat of export bans on supplies to the UK, Mr Beaune echoed Mr Macron’s baseless claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not work on pensioners.
Questioning the decision to space the doses for up to 12 weeks, he reportedly told French radio: ‘The British are in an extremely difficult health situation.
‘They are taking many risks in this vaccination campaign. And I can understand it, but they are taking many risks.’
The salvo came as Downing Street tried to draw a line under the spat with the EU, but sources made clear no jabs will be diverted abroad before over-50s have been covered, due to happen by Spring.
Boris Johnson (left) is trying to draw a line under the extraordinary spat with Brussels that saw Ursula von der Leyen (right) threaten to impose a hard border on the island of Ireland to prevent vaccines from the EU getting into the UK
Europe minister Clement Beaune (pictured) delivered an extraordinary jibe at the UK’s vaccine rollout as he scrambled to justify the shambolic progress with jabs in the EU
Every elderly care home resident across England has now been offered their first Covid vaccination, as figures yesterday showed another record-breaking day for jabs across the UK
UK orders 40million more doses of Valneva’s Covid vaccine
The Government has ordered an extra 40 million doses of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine which is being manufactured in Scotland.
The move means 100 million doses of Valneva have now been put on order, enough for every adult in the UK, with the latest batch earmarked for delivery in 2022.
The Government has also retained options over a further 90 million doses for supply between 2023 and 2025.
Valneva said the total value of the entire order was up to 1.4 billion euro (£1.24 billion).
The vaccine is still in clinical trials, with the early-stage phase 1/2 study expected to read out within the next three months.
The jab is expected to be given as two doses and is being made at a site in West Lothian, with the Government saying the new deal ‘will bolster long-term vaccine production in Scotland’.
In evidence of the growing panic in Brussels, EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen threatened last week to impose a hard border on the island of Ireland to prevent vaccines from the EU getting into the UK.
However, she then dropped the idea after a furious international backlash.
There is mounting speculation that the speed of the rollout in the UK means it could soon be helping neighbours inoculate their populations – with Ireland expected to be first in line.
Britain added further to its stocks this morning, announcing that another 40million doses of the Valneva vaccine – which is being manufactured in Scotland – has been ordered. Meanwhile, a new record of 600,000 jabs were administered in 24 hours as the UK pushes to have the four most vulnerable groups covered by February 15.
But yesterday Trade Secretary Liz Truss was asked directly whether jabs could be sent abroad before September, when all British adults are due to have been offered the vaccine, and replied: ‘That could well be the case.’
In a series of phone calls on Friday night, Mr Johnson secured a double victory over Brussels.
First Mrs von der Leyen dropped the threat to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which would have shut the border.
Then Mr Johnson secured a ‘guarantee’ that Brussels would also ditch plans to block the export of vaccines from the EU to the UK.
The climbdowns came after he warned the Brussels chief her plans would put at risk the lives of pensioners waiting for their second dose of the Pfizer jab, wreck the EU’s reputation as a place for international firms to do business and undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Ms von der Leyen tried to put a brave face on the embarrassing volte face last night, telling reporters there would be exports from UK factories to the EU.
‘I was glad that he guaranteed that the two factories who produce AstraZeneca will of course supply to Europe, just as European vaccine doses for example from BioNTech are being delivered to Britain,’ she said.
However, it appears that – unlike the EU – the UK has secured priority access to AstraZeneca supplies under its contract.
Sources told the Daily Telegraph that Ireland would receive spare jabs first.
And Mr Johnson said jabs need to be distributed as there’s ‘no point’ in one country being vaccinated.
In an online ‘People’s PMQs’ session, he warned that there is ‘no point one country on its own getting vaccinated’.
In interviews yesterday Ms Truss said: ‘It won’t benefit people in Britain if we become a vaccinated island and many other countries don’t have the vaccine.’
Downing Street said at lunchtime it is too soon to say when ‘surplus’ vaccine doses could be donated to other counties, such as EU member states.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman refused to say whether surplus doses would only be available once all UK adults had been offered a jab – which might not be until September – or whether vaccines could be donated once only the priority groups had been immunised by the spring.
‘It’s too early to discuss surplus doses,’ the spokesman said. ‘Our priority remains to ensure that we get the vaccine out to the most vulnerable in society – groups one-four and the rest of phase one – by the spring and that’s why we have set out what we will do.’
In more good news about the UK’s rollout, social care minister Helen Whately said this morning that the the coronavirus vaccine has been offered to every care home in England, apart from a handful suffering outbreaks.
‘We have offered a vaccine to every care home where it is possible to go in,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘Any care home that hasn’t been contacted, just let me know and I will personally follow up. I can be contacted on my ministerial email address.’
Ms Whately said they are continuing to work through the social care workforce.
‘We are determined by February 15 to have offered the vaccine to all the social care workforce,’ she said.
As an international backlash against the bloc gathered pace, Brussels was forced to reassure Canada that its contracted supplies from Pfizer’s factory in Belgium would not be disrupted. Japan warned against acting in a ‘nationalistic’ way, and South Korea said ‘global disunity’ would hinder the fight.
Ms Truss yesterday said the Government could now ‘absolutely guarantee’ that people would get their second Pfizer dose – and that vaccines ordered from plants in the EU would continue to arrive.
The Government has ordered an extra 40million doses of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine which is being manufactured in Scotland
Trade Secretary Liz Truss was asked directly yesterday whether jabs could be sent abroad before September, when all British adults are due to have been offered the vaccine, and replied: ‘That could well be the case.’
She said Mrs von der Leyen had promised the Prime Minister ‘there will be no disruption of contracts that we have with any producer in the EU’.
In a further sign of compromise, Mrs von der Leyen said yesterday that the EU was accepting an offer of an additional nine million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca – after the row started last week because the manufacturer said it would be delivering just 31million doses to the EU before the end of March, less than half the amount originally planned, due to production issues.
Irish premier Micheal Martin yesterday confirmed he had not been informed in advance of the EU’s plan to partially close the border with Northern Ireland. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Brussels appeared to have been ‘blindsided’ about the implications for the island of Ireland.
Unionists stepped up calls for the scrapping of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has been blamed for post-Brexit shortages in the Province.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said ministers should now act to get rid of the ‘insidious effects’ of the protocol. Mr Martin insisted the protocol, which is designed to prevent a hard border, was ‘a good thing’.
But, in a conciliatory move, he acknowledged there were ‘issues that we have to fine tune and work out’. Even the EU’s most ardent backers condemned its recent actions, with Tony Blair describing the bloc’s behaviour as ‘very foolish’.
This post was first published on DailyMail.