Health Secretary Matt Hancock says Brexit is the reason that the UK has ordered the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine before any other EU Member State – however, an independent regulator rejects this claim.
Speaking to Times Radio, Hancock claimed that UK success in securing the vaccine early was down to Brexit.
He said: “Whilst until earlier this year we were in the European Medicines Agency (EMA), because of Brexit we’ve been able to make a decision to do this based on a UK regulator … and not go at the pace of the Europeans, who are moving a little bit more slowly.
“We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they’re done because of Brexit.”
However, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Chief Executive, June Raine, said the process was undertaken under the terms of European law, which remains in force until the completion of the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020.
In a conference given from 10 Downing Street, Raine said: “We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law, which exist until 1 January.”
This came as a result of Germany’s ambassador to the UK, Andreas Michaelis, who criticised Ministers claiming Brexit to be the reason for the UK’s early access to the Pfizer vaccine.
Michaelis tweeted: “Why is it so difficult to recognise this important step as a great international effort and success?
“I really don’t think this is a national story … this is European and transatlantic.”
Why is it so difficult to recognize this important step forward as a great international effort and success. I really don't think this is a national story. In spite of the German company BioNTech having made a crucial contribution this is European and transatlantic. https://t.co/SE4XDG4P0o
— Andreas Michaelis (@GermanAmbUK) December 2, 2020
In support of the Health Secretary’s claim, the political blog Guido Fawkes stated that, whilst approval for the vaccine was under the jurisdiction of the EMA, the EU Medicines Directive “generously allows national medicine regulators (such as the MHRA) to temporarily approve products for use in response to the spread of pathogens.
“Had the UK remained a member of the EU it would not have been able to approve the vaccine this quickly.
“As a result of Brexit, the UK is not an EU member state and therefore not locked into that common approach.”
This was explained by Jens Spahn, German Health Minister, who stated that all 27 EU member states will have vaccine access at the same time, otherwise some Member States would have been able to get hold of the Covid-19 vaccine before others.