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Jens Spahn dismissed suggestions the UK had benefitted from a speedy approvals process thanks to Brexit, and pointed out that the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is a European-made product. His slapdown comes after Mr Hancock claimed the UK had been able to push ahead of the pack in the race for an approved vaccine and “not go at the pace of the Europeans” due to the fact it is no longer a member of the bloc. 

But Mr Spahn told reporters at an EU briefing on Wednesday that while Britain had been the first to approve the vaccine, he was optimistic that the European Medicines Agency would soon follow.

He said: “But a few remarks on Brexit to my British friends – BioNtech is a European development, from the EU.

“The fact that this EU product is so good that Britain approved it so quickly shows that in this crisis European and international cooperation are best.”

Mr Spahn said he felt proud that a German company had played a central role in developing the COVID-19 jab.

He said EU member states could have issued similar emergency approvals but Europe had decided to move forward as one.

Mr Spahn explained: “It’s very important we do this to help promote trust and confidence in this authorisation.”

He stressed he was not the only official irritated at Britons celebrating being the first to approve as a national triumph.

When British business minister Alok Sharma hailed the approval on Twitter as “the day the UK led humanity’s charge against the disease”, Germany’s ambassador to London fired off a testy response.

Andreas Michaelis tweeted: “I really don’t think this is a national story.

“In spite of the German company BioNTech having made a crucial contribution this is European and transatlantic.”

On Wednesday it emerged that the UK had approved Pfizer’s COVID jab, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation programme in history.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted emergency use approval to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotechnology partner BioNTech. 

The drugmakers said their development is 95 percent effective in preventing illness.

The approval cmae just 23 days after Pfizer published the first data from its final stage clinical trial.

Boris Johnson said the approval of the vaccine from Britain’s medicine authority represented a ray of hope amid the pandemic.

The UK has Europe’s highest COVID death toll, with 59,051 people dead after testing positive.

There have been more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases recorded in the UK.

The Prime Minister told Parliament the approval was “fantastic news” for Britain, though he cautioned that people should not get carried away.

He added: “At this stage it is very, very important that people do not get their hopes up too soon about the speed with which we will be able to roll out this vaccine.”

More to follow…..

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