‘Prize pillock’: Belgian PM sparks fury by claiming Brits are ‘guinea pigs’ for COVID jab

Pfizer vaccine found to be 95% effective against virus in study

And the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has mounted a staunch defence of its decision, insisting it came at the end of a “rigorous assessment”. Mr De Croo made his controversial remarks during a Q and A on VRT, the national public-service broadcaster for the Flemish Community of Belgium.

Tony Thomas asked: “Why are these vaccines so slow here, compared to other countries?”

Mr De Croo replied: “The deliveries of vaccines happen in the same way for all European countries.

“So that things would go faster in the neighbouring countries: I don’t see why that would be the case. We will vaccinate at the speed of production.

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They took their population as guinea pigs and chose not to do those additional tests.

Alexander De Croo

“Hundreds of millions of vaccines have to be produced. We also looked at the needles and there will be no problem there.”

He added: “In the United Kingdom they started to vaccinate faster, that’s right. But there they took their population as guinea pigs and chose not to do those additional tests.

“The government will also take it on if things go wrong.

“We will not do that: we want to be sure in Europe that it is good and safe before we start vaccinating.”

Mr De Croo’s remarks were shared on Twitter by Pieter Cleppe, a Brussels-based research fellow with the think tank Property Rights Alliance, prompting many to voice their irritation.

One, throwing in an apparent reference to Mr De Croo’s compatriot Guy Verhofstadt, said: “What a prize pillock.

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“Where’s Belgian Guy when he’s needed? Lol.”

Simon Higgins, referring to Belgian’s high number of COVID-19 cases, added: “If I were a member of the Belgian government, I would likely be very slow to criticise the approach of any other country (be it the UK or otherwise).”

Meanwhile Mr Cleppe himself, cited remarks by Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, which developed the vaccine along with Pfizer, suggesting EU red tape, not scientific reasons, had delayed its approval within the bloc.

The roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine in eight EU countries has also been delayed because of problems with storing it at the correct temperature.

A DHSC spokesman told Express.co.uk: “The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is a world leader in its field and followed rigorous international standards in its assessment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to make sure it meets strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.

“This has been a rigorous assessment with the rolling review starting in October as soon as data from the clinical trials became available.

“The MHRA also sought advice from independent experts from the Commission on Human Medicines before authorising the vaccine.”

Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), added: “The way in which the MHRA has worked is equivalent to all international standards.

“We are well aware of our national situation and therefore we have mounted teams, built our capability and worked in parallel.

“I want to thank the colleagues who have worked day and night, weekends, to enable us to come to this position. The public can be absolutely confident that the standards we have worked to are equivalent to those around the world.

“We have been able to authorise supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law.

“So our progress has been totally dependent on the availability of data in our rolling review and our rigorous assessment and independent advice we have received.”

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