Elderly Britons are REFUSING Pfizer’s vaccine because they’d rather ‘wait for the English one’

Elderly Britons are refusing the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine because they’d rather ‘wait for the English one’ and failing to turn up for appointments as ministers scramble to turbo-charge the jab’s roll out.

Over-80s have turned their noses up at the Belgian-made shots in Stockton-on-Tees and insisted on having the Oxford jab, according to Dr Paul Williams who is administering the vaccine to residents.

And missed appointments led to up to 10 police officers receiving their first doses in Nottingham to prevent vital supplies going to waste. Once defrosted from -78C (-104F) doses of Pfizer’s jab must be used within days, official guidance from the UK’s regulator says.

Only 1.3million Britons have been vaccinated in the first month of the critical programme, as the sluggish roll out fails to gather steam. It has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled the scale-up. 

Boris Johnson is tonight expected to unveil a new Army-led plan designed by senior military battlefield planners to distribute the jabs, as he seeks to put drastically speed up the roll out.

Ministry of Defence chiefs were instructed to devise the plans to hit the Prime Minister’s lofty target of vaccinating 13million — including over-70s, care home residents, NHS staff and extremely vulnerable adults of all ages — and ending lockdown by mid-February. 

The NHS operation, considered the biggest vaccination drive in British history, will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with almost 1,500 reserve troops on standby, The Telegraph reports. It comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last week there were 250 six-man tams were ‘standing ready’ to deliver 100,000 doses a day, if there was a request for more boots on the ground support from the Army. 

Mr Johnson is expected to be joined at the dispatch box by Brigadier Phil Prosser as well as Sir Simon Stevens. The NHS England boss will likely face questions about a decision to tell GPs to ‘stand down’ routine appointments so they can prioritise Covid vaccinations. 

As many as seven mass vaccination centres are set to open in England to aide the roll-out, set up in locations including sports stadiums and London’s ExCeL centre. But critics have warned the target is over-ambitious and said the Prime Minister should not make promises he won’t be able to meet.

It emerged last night that guidance had been sent to doctors explaining the jabs should be their ‘top priority’ – with other ‘non-essential’ activities postponed, potentially for weeks. NHS England has already advised surgeries to focus on the delivery of the vaccine by prioritising jab appointments over anything else. 

Elderly patients have been refusing the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Stockton insisting they would rather ‘wait for the English one’. Above are Britons arriving at the Epsom Downs Racecourse vaccination centre in Surrey today

Dr Paul Williams, left, said patients in Stockton were refusing the Pfizer vaccine. He was previously the Labour MP for the area

Nottinghamshire's police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping, right, said police officers were not being pushed to the front of the queue in the county

Dr Paul Williams, left, said patients in Stockton were refusing the Pfizer vaccine. He was previously the Labour MP for the area. Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping, right, said police officers were not being pushed to the front of the queue

The PM is expected to announce the new  vaccination strategy — drawn up by senior military battlefield planners — at a Downing Street press conference at 5pm tonight. Government sources said troops are not being drafted in to help

The PM is expected to announce the new  vaccination strategy — drawn up by senior military battlefield planners — at a Downing Street press conference at 5pm tonight. Government sources said troops are not being drafted in to help

ENGLAND VACCINE PROGRAMME SCALES UP 27% IN LAST WEEK OF PFIZER-ONLY PLAN

NHS England figures today showed that 1,092,885 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 between December 8 and January 3.

654,810 of them were over the age of 80 – the highest priority group – meaning that around one in five of all people in that age bracket have now been immunised. There are an estimated 3.4m over-80s in England.

A further 438,075 people under the age of 80 received a vaccine during the first 3.5 weeks of the programme. Most or even all of them will have been health and care workers, who are also high up the priority list.

The NHS said 308,541 were people were vaccinated in the week ending January 3, which was up 27 per cent from 243,039 the week before, up to December 27.

None of the statistics so far include people vaccinated with the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, which came into use this Monday, January 4. 

The Government is aiming to immunise 13.9million of the country’s most vulnerable people by mid-February so it can start to lift national lockdown rules.

To hit this ambitious target it will have to accelerate its vaccine programme at breakneck speed to hit an average 2million per week, including this week.

Part of helping this process is a controversial plan to only offer people the first dose to begin with, postponing the second for up to three months later. NHS data, however, shows that 19,981 people have already received a full two doses.

During the first phase of vaccinations, jabs were given out at 107 hospital hubs and 595 local vaccination sites. The Government said this will be increased to more than 1,000 vaccination stations by the end of this week, with 730 already operational.

In other coronavirus news:

  • Problems with the coronavirus vaccine rollout to GPs were laid bare as a surgery visited by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to promote the initiative is yet to receive supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca product;  
  • Two-thirds of GPs don’t believe Number 10 will be able to achieve the grand aim of vaccinating 2million people a week against Covid, according to a poll; 
  • Sir Keir Starmer said there was a ‘national duty’ to get people vaccinated against coronavirus, as the Labour leader told broadcasters: ‘This is a way out. This is the light at the end of the tunnel’;
  • Police quiz drivers outside Tesco and demand to know where they are going to enforce lockdown;
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel says police are right to challenge those sitting on park benches and lockdown’s stay-at-home message is clear;
  • London’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid patients in two weeks in a best case scenario, stark NHS briefing warns;
  • Hospitals may have to start using beds in care homes to take the pressure off hospitals;
  • Parents are urged to report schools to Ofsted if online lessons aren’t up to standard during lockdown;
  • B&M Bargains boss gives himself £30million bonus due to soaring Christmas retail sales; 

Dr Williams, who is also the former Labour MP for Stockton, vented his fury at those saying they will only have the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab today.

‘Some local patients have turned down an offer this weekend of getting a Covid vaccine when they found out it was the Pfizer one. “I’ll wait for the English one”,’ he wrote on Twitter. 

‘People at risk of death in the depths of a pandemic. 

‘A lesson that nationalism has consequences.’

He added: ‘Please take care everyone. This is real and this has just got more serious.’  

Nottinghamshire Police has confirmed some of its officers working at vaccine centres received jabs but added there were no plans to roll it out across the force.

The leader of a borough council in the county, John Clarke, told Nottinghamshire Live he was ‘appalled’ people were failing to attend appointments.

‘There is a lot that has gone into this and it disturbs me that people are not taking full advantage of it,’ he said.

‘The NHS needs to tighten up the wastage because we are all so desperate for this injection.’

Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping said no one was pushing officers to the front of the queue. 

‘But if it is available we don’t want to destroy it and it is best we use it in a positive and constructive way. Police are delighted to have been asked.’

He added there were ‘two problems’ with the vaccine roll out in the county.

‘You can get more out of a vial than is allowed – so you can get an extra dose out and that should not be wasted,’ he said. ‘Getting people through the door has also proved problematic. Some people don’t turn up to appointments.’

Boris Johnson (pictured today) will unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain's coronavirus jabs this evening

Boris Johnson (pictured today) will unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain’s coronavirus jabs this evening

Last week Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hinted that the military had plans ‘for up to 250 teams of mobile, medically trained personnel who could go out and administer the vaccine around the country’. He said those staff were capable of delivering ‘over 100,000 a day if that is requested by the NHS’.

It follows mounting concern over the slow start to Britain’s vaccination drive, with only 530,000 Oxford jabs cleared for use this week. This was a tiny fraction of the 30million doses the UK was initially promised would be ready in time for the vaccine to be approved.

Testing of the initial doses of vaccines has taken 20 days – with only one batch tested until that number was doubled yesterday.

Officials have now moved to tackle the problem, cutting the time taken to approve each batch to four days, with regulators now able to test more than one at once.

But a rapid acceleration is needed if Britain is to vaccinate the vast numbers required to ease Covid restrictions.

Eight months ago, when the nation was still in the grip of the first wave, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted sufficient doses would be ready.

He announced that the Government had struck a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture 100million doses of the Oxford vaccine, of which 30million would be ready by September.

By the end of November the results were delivered – the vaccine worked. And AstraZeneca insisted it could deliver enough vaccine to fill 20million injections by the end of 2020.

While slightly down from the 30million Mr Sharma had promised, it would still be a strong start, although the firm admitted only 4million of those would be in vials and ready to go.

Two Britons arrive at the Covid-19 vaccine centre in Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey, today. The roll out is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks

Two Britons arrive at the Covid-19 vaccine centre in Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey, today. The roll out is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer visited a vaccination centre at the Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre in Stratford, east London, today to view the roll out

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer visited a vaccination centre at the Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre in Stratford, east London, today to view the roll out

Patients have been missing Covid-19 vaccination appointments in Nottingham. Pictured above is the vaccination centre in Carlton, in the county

Patients have been missing Covid-19 vaccination appointments in Nottingham. Pictured above is the vaccination centre in Carlton, in the county

 

Police officers getting leftover doses of Covid vaccines so they don’t go to waste 

Ten police officers in Nottingham have been given their first doses of coronavirus vaccines despite not being on the priority list because of people failing to attend their appointments. 

Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping said the vaccine programme had been ‘problematic’ with people missing their scheduled jabs.

Once defrosted from -78C (-104F) doses of the Pfizer jab must be used within two days, official guidance from the UK’s regulator says. 

The police officers were given the vaccine so the extra doses were not wasted.

Mr Tipping told Nottinghamshire Live: ‘There are two issues around the Pfizer vaccine – you can get more out of a vial than is allowed – so you can get an extra dose out and that should not be wasted.

‘Getting people through the door has also proved problematic. Some people don’t turn up to appointments.

‘A number of police officers for Nottinghamshire have been to the Queen’s Medical Centre and had an injection.

‘It is about five or 10. People are keen to use it if it is available. Nobody in Nottinghamshire is putting police officers to the front of the queue for the vaccine.

‘But if it is available we don’t want to destroy it and it is best we use it in a positive and constructive way. Police are delighted to have been asked.’ 

It took another month for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to confirm that the vaccine was safe and effective.

But when that authorisation was finally announced, just over a week ago, the four million doses had somehow shrunk to 530,000. With at least 25million people in the Government’s priority groups for vaccination, such a figure was paltry. 

AstraZeneca slightly over-promised – it manufactured enough to give Britain an initial 15million doses – down from the 20million it had previously said could be delivered. But it produced the four million vaccines in vials it had pledged. The main delay, rather, has allegedly been the MHRA batch testing programme. Quality control requirements mean every single batch has to be tested separately both by AstraZeneca and the MHRA.

Quality control is run at the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control lab in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The NIBSC receives samples from each batch of vaccines and does a number of tests.

One complex element is ensuring each vial contains the right dose. Scientists also need to make sure the jab does what it is meant to. AstraZeneca does one set of tests and the NIBSC, in parallel, performs its own tests. When the two are completed they ensure the results match and, if they align, a batch-test certificate is issued.

Until yesterday that had happened only once – on December 29 – when the initial batch of 530,000 doses was approved. If Britain is to vaccinate the 13million most vulnerable people in the top four tiers of its priority list by mid-February this process needs to accelerate rapidly.

Meanwhile, a third vaccine from US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, which requires only one dose, is thought to be just weeks from approval. The UK has ordered 30million doses of the jab by Janssen – Johnson and Johnson’s Belgium-based pharmaceutical arm – with the option of 22million more.

Sir John Bell, regius professor at Oxford University and an adviser to the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, said the vaccine was ‘highly likely to work’.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is due to hold a press conference this afternoon to unveil a new distribution plans for the jabs devised by the Army.

Ministry of Defence chiefs have been instructed to come up with plans for even distribution of the jabs to boost chances of jabbing 13million by the middle of next month. The Sun reports that troops will not be involved at this stage.

Vaccination drive FINALLY starts accelerating: Approval time for doses is cut from twenty days to to five 

Approval of Covid vaccine batches is to be sped up drastically in a huge boost to the jab campaign.

Amid growing concern over the slow pace of the rollout, sources told the Mail that testing would be cut from up to 20 days to just four.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme.

It has just approved a second consignment of 500,000 doses of the Oxford jab – taking supplies beyond one million.

It comes as the jab, produced together with AstraZeneca, starts to be rolled out from GP surgeries today.

The expansion today comes amid hope that more than 700 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week.

Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

The vaccine is crucial because it is much easier to distribute than the Pfizer version, which needs storage at minus 70C.

MPs have questioned why only half a million doses of Oxford’s jab were available in the first week – despite promises that 30million would be ready last September.

Coronavirus deaths yesterday surged past 1,000 for the first time since April, while cases soared to another record high of 62,322.

The Mail has highlighted a string of issues with the vaccine rollout, which is critical to reducing the toll of the pandemic and ultimately lifting coronavirus restrictions.

A Government source acknowledged yesterday that the initial rollout of the Oxford jab had gone ‘slowly’, but promised a big acceleration toward the end of this week.

The MHRA, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme.

It has just approved a second consignment of 500,000 doses of the Oxford jab – taking supplies beyond one million.

The expansion comes amid hope that more than 700 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week.

Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

The vaccine is crucial because it is much easier to distribute than the Pfizer version, which needs storage at -70C (-104F).

MPs have questioned why only half a million doses of Oxford’s jab were available in the first week – despite promises that 30million would be ready last September.

Coronavirus deaths yesterday surged past 1,000 for the first time since April, while cases soared to another record high of 62,322.

The Mail has highlighted a string of issues with the vaccine rollout, which is critical to reducing the toll of the pandemic and ultimately lifting coronavirus restrictions.

A Government source acknowledged yesterday that the initial rollout of the Oxford jab had gone ‘slowly’, but promised a big acceleration toward the end of this week.

Meanwhile vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said Public Health England was ‘on a footing’ to administer doses every day of the week.

Further details will be revealed this evening when NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens appears at a Downing Street press briefing.

Doubts about the plan to inject 13million vulnerable people by the middle of February have been growing since Boris Johnson plunged the country into lockdown on Monday night.

Issues included the bureaucracy faced by volunteer vaccinators, supplies of jabs to care homes, the distribution network and the length of time it took for each batch to be approved.

Until now the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control has checked batches one at a time at its site in Hertfordshire.

That time-consuming process has been blamed for slowing down the deployment. Only 530,000 of four million available doses of the Oxford jab had passed the assessments before last night.

Appointments for Covid-19 jabs are being AXED because GPs have not received supplies of the vaccine on time 

Elderly people are having desperately-needed Covid vaccination appointments cancelled because doctors have not received their stocks on time.

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer.

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas. Some say they have had several cancelled deliveries.

Frontline NHS staff are also missing out on vaccinations. In one case, workers queued for hours outside a hospital only to have their appointments cancelled due to a scheduling blunder.

It has prompted fresh fears that Boris Johnson will be unable to keep his promise of getting 13 million of the most vulnerable Britons protected by the middle of next month. Last night Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to be delivering upwards of 2million vaccinations a week – this is a challenging but necessary target.

‘Last-minute changes to vaccine delivery schedules, as some GPs are reporting, only create confusion amongst patients and a lot of hard work for practices that need to swiftly adapt their plans, and must be minimised.’

Senior Labour MP Kevan Jones told how a group of doctors in his North Durham constituency were promised a delivery on December 16.

The GPs in Chester-le-Street were then told the supplies would not arrive until January 4 – and now expect them today ‘at the earliest’.

Even when the delivery does arrive, it will only include one 975-dose batch of the Pfizer vaccine and ‘a possibility’ of 400 doses of the AstraZeneca one. This is not sufficient for all local care home residents.

Mr Jones warned vaccines minister Mr Zahawi in a letter last night: ‘Local GPs have put in place extensive plans to administer the vaccine, but this is not being helped by vaccines that do not arrive, or by the Government’s raising of expectations that cannot be met.’

In Sussex, Meads Medical Centre had to cancel appointments booked for next week after a planned delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, due to provide second jabs to over-80s, was cancelled. Only a small amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine is now expected.

Castle Medical Centre and Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, had to cancel appointments for over-80s last week because not enough doses arrived. A similar story was told by a GP in south London, Dr Rosemary Leonard. She wrote on Twitter: ‘We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?’

Meanwhile in Scotland, NHS staff were left standing for hours in the cold outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary to get jabs because no staff were on duty to administer them.

Some left without being vaccinated amid the chaos on Tuesday. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised.

Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘This is the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.

‘It is being accelerated every day and vaccinations will be taking place at over 1,000 sites by the end of this week.’

The process has been changed so that more than one batch can be assessed at a time, cutting the timescale from up to 20 days to as little as four or five.

An MHRA spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with the manufacturer, AstraZeneca, to ensure batches of the vaccine are released as quickly as possible.

‘Biological medicines such as vaccines are very complex in nature and independent testing, as done by the National Institute, is vital to ensure quality and safety.

‘The institute has scaled up its capacity to ensure that multiple batches can be tested simultaneously, and that this can be done as quickly as possible, without compromising quality and safety.’

Delivery of the Oxford jab to 775 GP surgeries, which will take place from today, is another crucial step.

It will allow a significant acceleration of vaccination within care homes, where only 10 per cent of residents have received the jab so far.

Until now only hospitals have received the Oxford vaccine. In the Commons yesterday, Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson to accelerate the rollout of the vaccine so lockdown restrictions could be lifted as soon as possible.

Huw Merriman, member for Bexhill and Battle, said: ‘Every vaccination jab in the arm should be viewed as a pupil who can return to the classroom.’

Mr Zahawi said Public Health England had agreed to distribute the vaccine seven days a week despite fears they would not work on Sundays.

He told talkRadio: ‘If they need to deliver on a Sunday, they will deliver on a Sunday. They’ve been delivering up until now six days a week as the NHS has requested the vaccines to go out.

‘They are on a footing to go seven days a week as we get more vaccines. The head of PHE has said they have always been on a seven-day footing as they are requested to be, and they will continue to do that.

‘That is absolutely the priority for them, and for the whole of the NHS.’

Meanwhile, elderly people are having desperately-needed Covid vaccination appointments cancelled because doctors have not received their stocks on time.

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer.

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas. Some say they have had several cancelled deliveries.

Frontline NHS staff are also missing out on vaccinations. In one case, workers queued for hours outside a hospital only to have their appointments cancelled due to a scheduling blunder.

It has prompted fresh fears that Boris Johnson will be unable to keep his promise of getting 13 million of the most vulnerable Britons protected by the middle of next month. Last night Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to be delivering upwards of 2million vaccinations a week – this is a challenging but necessary target.

‘Last-minute changes to vaccine delivery schedules, as some GPs are reporting, only create confusion amongst patients and a lot of hard work for practices that need to swiftly adapt their plans, and must be minimised.’

Senior Labour MP Kevan Jones told how a group of doctors in his North Durham constituency were promised a delivery on December 16.

The GPs in Chester-le-Street were then told the supplies would not arrive until January 4 – and now expect them today ‘at the earliest’.

Even when the delivery does arrive, it will only include one 975-dose batch of the Pfizer vaccine and ‘a possibility’ of 400 doses of the AstraZeneca one. This is not sufficient for all local care home residents.

Mr Jones warned vaccines minister Mr Zahawi in a letter last night: ‘Local GPs have put in place extensive plans to administer the vaccine, but this is not being helped by vaccines that do not arrive, or by the Government’s raising of expectations that cannot be met.’

In Sussex, Meads Medical Centre had to cancel appointments booked for next week after a planned delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, due to provide second jabs to over-80s, was cancelled. Only a small amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine is now expected.

Castle Medical Centre and Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, had to cancel appointments for over-80s last week because not enough doses arrived. A similar story was told by a GP in south London, Dr Rosemary Leonard. She wrote on Twitter: ‘We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?’

John Elphinstone receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, administered by practice nurse Marianne Stewart, at Pentlands Medical Centre in Edinburgh

John Elphinstone receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, administered by practice nurse Marianne Stewart, at Pentlands Medical Centre in Edinburgh

Meanwhile in Scotland, NHS staff were left standing for hours in the cold outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary to get jabs because no staff were on duty to administer them.

Some left without being vaccinated amid the chaos on Tuesday. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised.

Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘This is the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.

‘It is being accelerated every day and vaccinations will be taking place at over 1,000 sites by the end of this week.’

Meanwhile, NHS England figures today showed that 1,092,885 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 between December 8 and January 3.

654,810 of them were over the age of 80 – the highest priority group – meaning that around one in five of all people in that age bracket have now been immunised. There are an estimated 3.4m over-80s in England.

A further 438,075 people under the age of 80 received a vaccine during the first 3.5 weeks of the programme. Most or even all of them will have been health and care workers, who are also high up the priority list.

The NHS said 308,541 were people were vaccinated in the week ending January 3, which was up 27 per cent from 243,039 the week before, up to December 27.

None of the statistics so far include people vaccinated with the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, which came into use this Monday, January 4.

The Government is aiming to immunise 13.9million of the country’s most vulnerable people by mid-February so it can start to lift national lockdown rules.

To hit this ambitious target it will have to accelerate its vaccine programme at breakneck speed to hit an average 2million per week, including this week.

Part of helping this process is a controversial plan to only offer people the first dose to begin with, postponing the second for up to three months later. NHS data, however, shows that 19,981 people have already received a full two doses.

During the first phase of vaccinations, jabs were given out at 107 hospital hubs and 595 local vaccination sites. The Government said this will be increased to more than 1,000 vaccination stations by the end of this week, with 730 already operational.

Think Britain has vaccine problems? You should see the mess we’ve made of it here in the EU, writes ALEXANDER VON SCHOENBURG, editor-at-large of Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper Bild

Britons may understandably be feeling more than a little frustrated with their leaders right now during this new and more vicious phase of the pandemic.

Covid infections are soaring in the UK, there are more patients hospitalised than at the peak of the first wave and, tragically, daily deaths yesterday topped the 1,000 mark.

Then there is fury over your school closures, a developing row over who should get the vaccine — young or old — and problems with supply and distribution.

Yes, you may feel things look grim, but let me tell you that many of us here in Europe are looking across the Channel with envy.

The sclerotic and sluggish EU machine has, unforgivably, botched the roll-out of the vaccines, and the consequences are likely to prove fatal to many thousands of our citizens.

The pandemic is almost a year old and EU leaders could have and should have seen the need for a swift, effective vaccine policy a mile off. 

Instead, delays, in-fighting, national self-interest and sheer bungling bureaucracy have combined to cripple the EU’s vaccine efforts.

Now a growing fury is spreading as we watch independent countries — particularly Britain, Israel and America — ramping up their vaccine distribution with tremendous efficiency in comparison to our efforts, saving lives, protecting the vulnerable and moving towards ending this terrible crisis.

Numerous EU countries are facing delays and criticism over their handling of the vaccine rollout, with the bloc lagging behind Britain and America in protecting its 450million people against Covid-19

Numerous EU countries are facing delays and criticism over their handling of the vaccine rollout, with the bloc lagging behind Britain and America in protecting its 450million people against Covid-19

Europe's top vaccinators: These countries have given out more than 10,000 doses so far, according to figures from Our World In Data - but others including France are lagging behind, with governments hoping that the Wednesday approval of the Moderna vaccine will speed things up as officials blame shortages in the Pfizer/BioNTech supply for the delays so far

Europe’s top vaccinators: These countries have given out more than 10,000 doses so far, according to figures from Our World In Data – but others including France are lagging behind, with governments hoping that the Wednesday approval of the Moderna vaccine will speed things up as officials blame shortages in the Pfizer/BioNTech supply for the delays so far 

Don’t believe me? Let me take you through the numbers.

More than 1.3 million people in Britain have now received either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the more recently approved Oxford/AstraZeneca version.

Vaccine doses given out by EU countries 

Germany – 316,962

Italy – 182,442

Spain – 139,339

Poland – 92,220

Denmark – 51,512

Romania – 41,609

Portugal – 32,000

Greece – 16,233

Hungary – 15,000

Croatia – 13,798

Czech Republic – 13,000

Slovakia – 7,201

Austria – 6,000

Slovenia – 5,934

Finland – 5,445

France – 5,000

Bulgaria – 4,739

Ireland – 4,000

Estonia – 3,188

Latvia – 2,923

Lithuania – 2,270

Malta – 1,400

Luxembourg – 1,200

Belgium – 700

Started today: Netherlands

No data: Cyprus, Sweden 

Source: Our World In Data 

As of yesterday, France, your closest neighbour, had vaccinated just 7,000 people. During the first week of its vaccination programme, France immunised a pitiful 516 individuals: Britain managed 130,000 in the first seven days and started doing so weeks earlier.

From his bunker in the Elysee Palace, the beleaguered President Macron admits that this paltry figure is ‘not worthy of the French people,’ adding, with Gallic understatement, ‘things aren’t going well’. You can say that again.

But France’s record is in fact just one of a shameful litany across the continent. In Holland, the first Covid-19 vaccines were administered only yesterday — almost a full month after Margaret Keenan, now 91, became the first British patient to receive the jab on the NHS.

In the Polish capital Warsaw, one hospital has attracted widespread criticism for reportedly opting to give the vaccine to celebrities and politicians before vulnerable older citizens, sparking a government investigation there.

My home country of Germany had, by Tuesday, vaccinated some 317,000 people — by far the most of the EU27.

Yet what a bitter irony it is that we who were crucial to the development and manufacturing of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab — BioNTech is a start-up based outside Frankfurt — must now watch lorry loads of supplies travelling to Britain while our own roll-out is beset by delay, uncertainty and fears about future supply.

Our health minister has warned that Germany will not be vaccinating at Britain’s rate until at least the summer, thanks to distribution problems and the EU’s ill-considered ‘cap’ on the number of doses that can be distributed to the various member states.

So why, despite frequent warnings throughout last year from both the private sector and individual health ministries, and despite the limitless resources at its disposal, have things gone so horribly wrong for the EU?

The seeds were sown as far back as March when the pandemic began to engulf the continent.

I was in northern Italy at the time, reporting for my paper Bild on what was the first region in Europe to be hit hard by coronavirus. I saw for myself the military lorries in Bergamo transporting coffins to mass graves, and I will not soon forget it.

Alarmed at the horror that was unfolding, Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn ordered German manufacturers of PPE and other clinical equipment to stop selling abroad.

Understandably, Italy was shocked by the export ban and a chorus of EU commentators demanded ‘solidarity’.

Scarred by that experience, and ever desperate to portray herself as a pan-European, Chancellor Angela Merkel — who never wastes an opportunity to surrender her own country’s interests to those of the EU — handed over Germany’s vaccination policy to the European Commission.

It’s now all too clear that many Germans will die needlessly because of that decision and the desperately slow roll-out that has followed. 

The Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, is known for her bossy, power-grabbing tendencies.

These may have served her well in the closing weeks of the Brexit negotiations last month, but they have helped to plunge Europe into its vaccination crisis.

Over the summer, under Mrs von der Leyen and the Commission’s health chief, the Cypriot Stella Kyriakides, the EU made a series of devastating strategic errors. It ordered 300 million doses of a vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline-Sanofi, a drug that then stumbled in trials.

It spent the summer haggling over the price for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, ordering sizeable shipments only in November.

Britain, meanwhile, ordered 40 million doses of the same vaccine in July; America put in for 600 million.

Disgracefully, the EU has still not approved the ‘game-changing’ Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine — which is both cheap and can be stored in a standard refrigerator — that Britain began rolling out this week after securing 100 million doses.

(I should acknowledge that yesterday the EU did approve another vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, on which Britain has yet to sign off.)

Though the EU has now signed contracts to buy six different vaccines, its regulators have approved just two.

This terrible stasis will prove fatal — in every sense — for the EU’s population: time is running out for its healthcare systems as new and more infectious variants of the virus take hold.

Amid this chaos, it’s perhaps no surprise that some European lawmakers are desperately trying to shift the blame. 

Disgracefully, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Petra De Sutter, accused other countries of using sub-standard vaccines.

‘The UK and Israel, as well as Russia and China, are vaccinating people with vaccines that are not of the same standard as the ones we use,’ she said this week.

Yes, the U.S. and the UK gained a head start by invoking emergency powers that mean drug manufacturers are less exposed should problems with a vaccine later surface.

But that is the kind of rapid, vital and timely decision a sovereign country can make in a crisis.

It is impossible to make the same decision when you have 27 countries arguing with one another, all overseen by a remote and unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels.

So what conclusions can we draw? First, nation states are far more effective in a crisis than unwieldy groupings of different countries.

But the most bitter irony for Europe is that the one foreign politician our liberal commentariat have most mocked for years — Boris Johnson — is also the one who acted swiftly and decisively when it came to securing the vaccines. The number of doses you have speaks for itself.

And it was the ‘sensible’ federalist Europeans who have failed so miserably.

Anyone who still doubts the wisdom of Brexit needs only to look at the vaccine chaos unfolding across the Channel — and think again.

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