UK and US officials spark on coronavirus ‘vaccination nationalism’


London – British and US officials spared on Thursday how Britain beat the United States by allowing a coronavirus vaccination, a heated debate over policy and regulatory styles as rich countries force themselves to take over the first vaccine shipments.

In Britain, the euphoria of winning a global competition to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine quickly paved the way for a more sober realization of the country’s National Health Service options as it tries to get the first doses into people’s arms by Monday.

Residents of nursing homes, named as the government’s top priority, have fallen off the list. Doctors and nurses expected vaccinations at first, but these plans seemed to alternate. Meanwhile, the government asked people not to call hospitals, they asked for a shot.

The question of whether Britain urgently approved the vaccination on Wednesday or whether the United States wasted valuable time as the virus killed about 1,500 Americans a day has split scientists and drawn attention to politicians as well. Faced with criticism from American and European regulators, British officials dismissed these regulators and deceptively linked the decision to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

“Obviously, we got the best medical regulators,” Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said in a radio interview, explaining why Britain became the first Western country to allow vaccination. “Much better than the French, much better than the Belgians, much better than the Americans. This is not at all surprising, because we are a much better country than all of them. “

These remarks attracted witnesses from British scientists, but also raised more serious concerns that the beating of government ministers on the chest could jeopardize the public’s belief in the vaccine.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases, said British regulators did not examine clinical trial data as carefully as their U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff.

“The FDA has a gold standard for its regulatory approach,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with Fox News. “The UK didn’t do it so carefully and they got ahead a few days.”

Approval could be granted by the FDA next week and by European Union regulators at the end of the month.

Britain’s Brexit MPs have misunderstood Britain’s division with the European Union as the reason it allowed vaccination for the first time. In fact, Britain will remain under the regulatory umbrella of the bloc until 31 December when it comes to approving medicines and vaccines, but it has been able to move faster because of European regulations that allow countries to act independently in public health emergencies.

While Brexit may make it easier for Britain to get vaccinated early as a political issue, analysts say the divorce has otherwise made the work of its medical regulators more difficult.

Scientists say waving Brexit MPs has done little to build public confidence.

“Vaccination has no place for nationalism in Covid or other public health issues of global significance,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and scientific adviser to the UK government. “Science has always been the exit strategy from this horrific pandemic – science has been global.”

The first vaccinations In just a few days, the British analyzed the government’s changing and sometimes vague statements about who would receive the vaccine and when.

The government’s advisory committee recommended that residents and workers in nursing homes should be at the forefront of vaccination to prevent the suffering and death of the most vulnerable, and to protect the country’s overcrowded hospitals when dealing with a second wave of infections. In England and Wales, more than a quarter of coronavirus deaths occurred in nursing homes.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that the Pfizer vaccine will only be administered in hospitals for the time being due to its ultra-tough storage needs, to the exclusion of people living in nursing homes as first recipients.

“We all sit in this kind of meeting, ‘Will we get it? Don’t we understand?'” Said Adam Purnell, Kepplegate’s administrator, in a small nursing home in the North West of England.

“It just breaks my heart at the stories I hear that I can’t see their loved ones,” he added. “The fact that we have another promise under them is quite insensitive to people living in care homes and their relatives.”

Roughly 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, developed by German company BioNTech, were packaged this week at the company’s Belgian plant for delivery to the UK. For security reasons, it was kept secret how and when they arrived, the company said, although the BBC reported on Thursday that some of the doses were transported between France and Britain via the Eurotunnel

Pfizer this week sought to close questions about whether people in the UK will be able to pay to cut off a vaccination line that requires two doses, with a monthly difference.

“I can say clearly and confidently that there are no plans to supply the private sector in the foreseeable future – there is no chance at all,” said Ben Osborn, Pfizer’s UK national leader, on Wednesday, adding that for the sake of fairness, the state Health Service decides who should be vaccinated.

Despite some analysts ’predictions that a black market for vaccines is inevitable, Mr. Osborn insisted that people who try to sell the shot without permission will not be able to divert doses from the supply chain.

As for the National Health Service’s plans, hospitals have sent internal emails in recent days outlining plans to schedule shots for doctors and nurses. The government’s advisory committee recommended that older or more vulnerable health workers, as well as doctors and nurses working with fragile patients, be among the first to line up.

According to the government, the logistics of moving, defrosting and preparing the vaccine were so complicated that it was initially given in only 50 British hospitals.

But until Thursday, there were signs that before the health workers were vaccinated, the government wanted to offer shots to nursing home workers and people 80 years of age or older who had already been admitted to hospitals for other reasons. It still seemed likely that doctors and nurses would also be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

Sally Gilbert, an anesthetic technician who worked in the coronavirus ward at Hull Hospital in the North East of England, said she was relieved to hear the vaccine was approved.

“I hope this helps us get back to some sort of normal situation,” he said. “Whatever it is.”

Although the details were few on how the vaccines work in the hospital, he said he received an email suggesting staff members could start shooting on Monday.

“I’m sure they have a plan,” he said. – We just haven’t been told.

Megan Specia contributed in London.