03/12/2020 09:43 GMT

UK Approved Vaccine First Because It's A 'Better Country' Than Others, Says Gavin Williamson

Education secretary says Britain has "much better people" than France, Belgium and the US – the countries involved in developing the jab.

The UK was the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine for use because it is a “much better country” than France, Belgium and the United States, the education secretary has said.

On Wednesday the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave the green light to the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, paving the way for vaccinations to start next week.

Speaking to LBC on Thursday morning, Gavin Williamson was asked why no other country had yet to approve the vaccine.

“Well I just reckon we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators,” he said.

“Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them aren’t we.” 

The vaccine is a joint project between Pfizer, an American firm, and BioNTech, a German firm.

Doses of the vaccine delivered to the UK will be manufactured in Belgium.

Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said on Thursday morning said he expected other countries to approve the vaccine soon.

“I actually don’t expect other regulators, particularly the US regulator, to be very far behind with this vaccine,” he told BBC Breakfast. “This will all be solved in matter of days. Other regulators are very close behind.”

Van-Tam said the UK had been able to approve the vaccine fast as the government had been “really, really organised”.

“I started focusing behind the scenes on getting vaccines and vaccine preparedness back in March,” he said.

The MHRA has also dismissed claims the UK was able to approve the vaccine quickly because of Brexit. “We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until January 1,” June Raine, the regulator’s chief executive, told a Downing Street briefing.