EU chief defends later vaccine rollout as 'good decision'

By: AFP      Published: 07:58 PM, 2 Feb, 2021
EU chief defends later vaccine rollout as 'good decision'

The EU commission chief has defended the slower Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the bloc as a "good decision", saying the European Union would not put the safety of citizens at risk, in an interview published Tuesday.

Ursula von der Leyen's comments in Le Monde French daily come after she was criticised over a far slower vaccine rollout than in the UK and also a botched move to halt the exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"Some countries started to vaccinate a little before Europe, it is true," she said, pointing to emergency procedures used for authorisation.

But she added: "The commission and the member states agreed not to compromise on the safety and effectiveness requirements linked to the authorisation of a vaccine."

With some politicians in Britain claiming the quicker vaccine rollout there had vindicated Brexit, France's Europe Minister Clement Beaune told French radio that the British vaccination rollout was taking "a lot of risks".

"I do not think that our fellow citizens would accept that we take all the risks -- contrary to the opinions of our scientists -- for this vaccination campaign", he told France Inter.

The head start in Britain "has nothing to do with Brexit", he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in interviews published Friday that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine -- which is set to be the backbone of the British campaign -- appeared not to be effective for people over 65 years of age.

France's health authority is due later Tuesday to give its verdict on approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine and who it should be used on.