Bitter VDL hits out at ‘risky’ British vaccine scheme – and claims EU is catching up

Vaccine: Anna Maria Chiuri criticises EU’s ‘huge problem’

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The European Commission President defended her sluggish rollout of Covid jabs by claiming the UK’s strategy to delay the second dose was a health risk. She said more than twice the number of Italians had received both of their shots compared to Britons. Mrs von der Leyen said: “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.”

British officials opted to delay the second dose by 12 weeks to ensure a larger number of people can be offered a certain degree of protection.

Mrs von der Leyen added: “I think it’s risky to simply postpone the second vaccination.

“We should adhere to the specifications that the manufacturers determined in their extensive clinical tests.”

Britain’s strategy has helped it deliver more than 18.56 million coronavirus jabs, at a rate of 27.34 per 100 people.

In contrast, the EU has only managed to vaccinate around 6 percent of its roughly 450 million population – administering only 27.82 million shots.

Mrs von der Leyen said she could understand the “frustration” felt by many European citizens struggling to access coronavirus jabs.

But she defended her bungled scheme by claiming that some 130 countries around the world are yet to roll out any doses.

“Nobody has been vaccinated in 130 countries around the world,” Mrs von der Leyen said.

“Europe is among the first, albeit with fewer doses in the start-up phase than expected.”

The bloc is, however, struggling to dish out doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a number of European leaders sought to discredit the jab.

The European Medicines Agency has approved doses of the Oxford-produced vaccine for use in all adults.

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But a number of EU capitals have not approved it use in over-55s, and French President Emmanuel Macron slammed it as “quasi-ineffective” in older age groups.

Mrs von der Leyen said that she “would take the AstraZeneca vaccine without a second thought”.

She added: “I would be vaccinated with the vaccine from AstraZeneca just as safely as with the products from BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna.

“When we started looking for the most promising out of the hundreds of candidates ten months ago, we assumed an effectiveness of between 50 and 70 percent.

“Now everyone is above that.

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“The vaccine has been carefully examined, found to be safe and effective, and approved.”

At a virtual summit tomorrow, EU leaders will call for a continuation of tough measures to curb the spread of coronavirus across the bloc as a result of the bungled vaccine strategy.

In leaked draft summit conclusions, seen by Express.co.uk, EU leaders will say: “The epidemiological situation remains serious and the new variants pose additional challenges.

“We must therefore uphold tight restrictions while stepping up efforts to accelerate the provision of vaccines.”

They will order a report to be drawn up on the “lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic” and the failure of eurocrats as anger over the slow rollout of Covid jabs grows.

They will also resist immediately reopening international travel ahead of the summer holidays.

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