World News

Macron no 'sore loser' on vaccine race with UK - French presidency

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron and other EU leaders are not being sore losers over Britain’s faster vaccine roll-out but are moving at an appropriately safer pace, the president’s office said on Wednesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron looks on next to Slovakia's Prime Minister Igor Matovic (not seen) as they deliver a joint statement at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Britain is well ahead of France and other EU countries in the pace of its roll-out, having approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot earlier.

Macron, who last week questioned the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine on people older than 65, caused outrage in Britain, where older people are receiving the shots.

Asked in a briefing with reporters whether he and other EU leaders were being “sore losers” because of Britain’s faster roll-out, an adviser to Macron replied:

“Calling us sore losers: no. This is no battle of egos, this isn’t a PR battle, what we’re doing is following our public health strategy to protect our citizens.”

EU countries have chosen a more robust authorisation procedure for vaccines rather than the fast-track procedure Britain opted for to assuage strong anti-vaccine sentiment, he said.

“The UK has taken risks in authorising AstraZeneca extremely quickly. As far as we’re concerned, we’re betting on health safety,” the adviser said.

The EU regulator gave the green light to the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, saying there was not yet enough results for people over the age of 55 to determine how well the vaccine worked in that group but that it could still be given to older people.

France, Germany and Belgium are among countries to recommend the vaccine is only given to under 65s.

Macron’s adviser said Britain’s faster vaccine roll-out was also used by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a way to vindicate the UK’s decision to exit the EU.

“You have to keep in mind that obviously, Boris Johnson, and he is entitled to do so, wants to use this to validate Britain’s choice to leave the European Union,” he said.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Mark Heinrich