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Government Risking Major Spat With UK Over AZ Vaccine Comments
The French gov't is risking a major deterioration in relations with the UK over comments made by President Emmanuel Macron and Europe Minister Clement Beaune in relation to the efficacy of the UK-developed AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine.
- The comments are likely aimed at a domestic audience, with France's vaccine rollout running well behind that of the UK (2.4 vaccines administered per 100 of the population compared to 14.9/100 in the latter as of 1 Feb). However, they may create major risks for the COVID-19 recovery given that France remains the most sceptical major EU economy towards vaccines.
- On 29 January, amidst the furore caused by the EU Commission's potential creation of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Macron stated that the AZ vaccine - that day approved for use across the EU among all age groups by the EMA - was "quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older."
- On 2 February, Beaune stated to Inter Radio that "The Brits are in an extremely difficult health situation...Understandably, they are taking many risks in this vaccination campaign [...] I don't think [French/EU] citizens would accept us taking risks that contradict scientific recommendations,"
- Beaune doubled down on these statements on 3 Wednesday, saying to LCI TV that "The situation between the United Kingdom and the European Union is often compared. But the UK is taking a lot of risks, which our scientific authorities do not recommend. We decided to take more precautions."
- There is no scientific evidence backing up the claims of either Macron or Beaune in relation to the effectiveness of the AZ vaccine, or in the rigorousness of the UK regulatory body's precautions in relation to approving the vaccine.
- Politico this morning reported comments from an unnamed Downing Street official: "For all our disagreements over the last few years, it is frankly astonishing that the EU, and the leader of a supposedly functioning Western democracy, would essentially spread anti-vaxx disinformation." Meanwhile, a minister told the same outlet that the French president was viewed as "a disgrace" in Westminster for his comments.
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