Despite fears that the UK’s emergency authorization could put pressure on regulators in the United States and Europe to speed up their own approval processes, there were no immediate signs of that on Wednesday.
The European Union’s drug regulator has cautiously criticized Britain’s move, saying its own process is “the most appropriate regulatory mechanism to use in the current emergency pandemic”.
British supporters of the speedy resolution disagreed, citing the reputation of the British regulator as a quick but strict institution.
British Health Minister Matt Hancock said Wednesday that Britain̵
In fact, the UK is still bound by EU medical rules until the end of the month, which means that other European countries can similarly issue an emergency authorization without the approval of the EU regulator.
But the health spokesman for the center-right parties in the European Parliament, Peter Lise, called on EU member states to refrain from further action by the United Kingdom.
“I think this decision is problematic and I recommend that EU member states do not repeat the process in the same way,” Lise said in a statement. “A few weeks of in-depth examination by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is better than a hasty authorization for emergency vaccine use.”
European leaders avoided direct criticism of Britain’s move Wednesday, but some said they had the same opportunity and opted for a more cautious approach, in part to improve public confidence in the vaccine and encourage as many people as possible to use it.
“It is important that we do this to foster trust and confidence in this solution,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters as EU health ministers met in practice to discuss pandemic measures.
In the US, several media outlets reported this week that the head of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, was summoned to the White House on Tuesday – before the official announcement of the United Kingdom to explain why urgent use of the most promising vaccine candidates is not yet has been approved.
The FDA defended its actions, emphasizing the importance of safety along with the speed of pressure to start administering the vaccine.
Khan reiterated on Tuesday that “we absolutely must do the right thing,” but it remains unclear whether the UK’s move could affect the FDA’s response in the coming days.
Some European leaders on Wednesday also expressed irritation at the tone of the British celebration of the vaccine, developed by German biotechnology company BioNTech – founded by two children of immigrants in the country – and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
In a tweet, British Business Secretary Alok Sharma highlighted the role of the United Kingdom in its dissemination, writing that the United Kingdom “has indicted humanity against” covid-19, becoming the first country to grant it an emergency permit.
“The United Kingdom was the first country to sign an agreement with Pfizer / BioNTech – we will now be the first to introduce their vaccine,” he added on Twitter.
Germany’s ambassador to Britain looks impressed. “Why is it so difficult to recognize this important step forward as a great international effort and success?” Andreas Michaelis replied.
“I really don’t think it’s a national story, although the German company BioNTech has made a decisive contribution, it’s European and transatlantic,” Michaelis added.
Spahn struck a similar tone, saying the very existence of the BioNTech vaccine is thanks to the EU’s collective effort to buy it this summer. British politicians have decided not to take part in collective procurement efforts – a decision that has likely led to higher costs for them – because of a political desire to stay alone and promote Brexit, EU diplomats said.
Birnbaum reports from Riga. Melen reports from Washington.