Macron discusses ‘building the future’ of Europe
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Speaking at the EU summit in Porto, Portugal, over the weekend, the French President claimed the EU was slower than Brexit Britain and the United States in the procurement and inoculation of Covid vaccines because it had been “more open” to export jabs to the rest of the world.
Mr Macron said: “Why were we slower than others? Because we were immediately open. This is the truth.
“Of the four hundred million vaccines produced by Europe since the start of the crisis, two hundred million have been exported. When we compare the UK and Europe, people say: ‘Look at the British, they go so much faster!’
“It is because we were open and because we did not proceed like the Americans who kept to themselves everything they produced at the beginning, so we can be blamed either for slowness or selfishness, but not both at the same time.
“We were slower than others because we were more open. We were more generous than everyone else.
“If I compare the EU, the British, the Americans, we are, by far, the ones who exported more of the doses produced in our continent. Four hundred million produced, two hundred million exported.”
But the claim was lambasted by Generation Frexit leader Charles-Henri Gallois who branded the French President a liar.
The Frexiteer said: “What a ridiculous lie!
“You were slower because you entrusted the file to the EU which took three months longer than a free, agile and independent country, like the United Kingdom, to conclude the agreements.
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“The EU sect will never challenge the dogma!”
The row comes as the European Commission announced it will not renew its contract with vaccine supplier AstraZeneca beyond June, putting the bloc at risk of having to incur a bigger cost for vaccines in the future.
European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Sunday the EU has not made any new orders for AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June when their contract ends, after the bloc signed a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech.
Mr Breton also said he expected the costs of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to be higher than the earlier versions.
The Commission last month launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.
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He told France Inter radio: “We did not renew the order after June. We’ll see what happens.”
He did not rule out a potential renewal at a later stage.
Concerns have risen on potential side-effects of the Anglo-Swedish COVID-19 vaccine.
Europe’s medicines regulator said on Friday it was reviewing reports of a rare nerve-degenerating disorder in people who received the shots, a move that comes after it found the vaccine may have caused very rare blood clotting cases.
While the regulator has maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risks, several European countries have limited use to older age groups or suspended use altogether.
In answer to a question at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, President Macron welcomed the move towards what he sees are more effective vaccines against new variants of COVID-19, calling it “pragmatic”.
The French leader said: “We are vaccinating with this vaccine (AstraZeneca) in France and in Europe. We must continue to do this because it will help us get out of the crisis.”
“But for future orders, in order to respond in particular to variants, we see that other vaccines are now more effective, so this signals a European pragmatism which I welcome.”
The European Union has signed a new contract with Pfizer-BioNTech. It will receive 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2021-2023, which will cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses.
But Mr Breton admitted the move could mean an increase in prices for second-generation vaccines.
This, he claimed, could be justified by the extra research required and potential changes to industrial equipment.
He said: “There may be a little extra cost but I will let the competent authorities unveil it in due course.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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