Vaccine row: EU solidarity 'benefits everyone' says Beaune
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The French European Affairs Minister told Italian daily La Repubblica the EU provides better health protection to patients than the UK’s NHS. Asked whether the bloc should have followed Brexit Britain’s example with its successful vaccination strategy at the beginning of the rollout, Mr Beaune renewed his and Emmanuel Macron’s belief the UK took too many “risks” on vaccines.
He said: “We can play the film backwards.
“But if in November and December, when we were just starting to learn about the different vaccines, we hadn’t followed all the recommendations of the health authorities, for example on age, time between doses, we would probably have been faster but taking more risks.
“I don’t think there was a consensus on this a few months ago.
“In Europe, the acceptance of risk is more limited, not only in our governments but also in our societies.”
Asked whether Europeans are paying for the bloc’s “excessive caution”, he claimed EU citizens’ health is better protected than in the UK or the US.
He said: “This is a debate we can have for the future.
“Let’s look at the more general situation though.
“This increased prudence has also allowed us to have better health protection for patients than in the UK or the US.
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“The same is true for the US economic aspect.
“It is in Europe that purchasing power and employment are best protected, that inequalities are limited as much as possible.
“I don’t think we should throw away the European model of protection and sometimes of prudence.”
In a bitter attack on Brexiteers in the UK, Mr Beaune claimed Britain’s successful vaccination programme has nothing but the same targets as those stipulated by the European Commission, adding the overall management of the pandemic in the UK lags behind France and Italy.
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He said: “What worries me is the exploitation and confusion.
“I recognise that the British are faster today. Good for them.
“But the British Government’s goal is to have the adult population vaccinated by the summer.
“It is also an objective of the European Union.
“On the other hand, let us look at the management of the pandemic as a whole.
“I do not think that, on the whole, the British choices have been more protective than in France, in Italy or elsewhere in the EU.”
The attack comes as only 6 percent of Europeans received a first dose of the vaccine, compared to 17 percent of Americans and 32 percent of people in the UK.
Asked to justify the bloc’s slow rollout, Mr Beaune said: “We must say things frankly: there are difficulties, there are delays in Europe.
“The real problem is not linked to the European agreement but concerns the speed of production.
“We would have the same difficulties if we were alone. The solution, therefore, is to improve and accelerate the European production system, put pressure on laboratories, control exports, but through a case-by-case examination.”
In France, only four million people have received the first shot of the vaccine so far.
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