James CrispWed, 24 February 2021, 5:00 pm
European Union leaders challenged Emmanuel Macron over his inaccurate claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffectual”, it emerged on Wednesday.
The French president said the jab did not appear to work on the over 65s in late January just hours before the EU’s medicines regulator approved it for use on all adults.
A senior EU official revealed that Mr Macron was asked about his comments, which have been linked to a reluctance in some European countries to take the AstraZeneca jab.
EU leaders have held regular video summits, including one on Thursday where they will call for coronavirus restrictions to continue, since the pandemic.
“The point was raised by some leaders indeed. I cannot say who and when it was raised,” the official said.
“There are in some countries some doubts and I think that the question was more to get clarification on if it was true or not and since then I think the commission has reacted to this.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, said on Tuesday she “would take the AstraZeneca vaccine without a second thought”.
People in Europe are reluctant to have the jab after Mr Macron’s comments and inaccurate German reports about the vaccine.
The EU was “catching up” with Britain on vaccinations, Mrs von der Leyen said, as she branded the British strategy of delaying the second dose as “risky”.
She responded to criticism that the EU vaccination rollout was too slow by pointing out that 130 countries in the world had had no jabs at all.
“We’re catching up. Britain has administered 17 million first doses. There are 27 million in the EU. In Italy, with a population similar to that of Great Britain, twice as many citizens received full vaccination protection with the second dose as in the UK,” she said.
Britain used faster emergency authorisation procedures to approve vaccines than the EU. The UK negotiated for doses alone after rejecting an offer from Brussels last year to join the EU joint procurement scheme.