Boris Johnson says he will be getting AstraZeneca jab 'very shortly'

Boris Johnson says he will be getting AstraZeneca vaccine ‘very shortly’ as ministers scramble to reassure Britons after panic in Europe over blood clot ‘fake news’

  • Boris Johnson says he will be getting AstraZeneca vaccine ‘very shortly’ as the UK’s rollout gathers pace 
  • More than a dozen European countries have stopped using the vaccine despite regulator insisting it is safe
  • European Medicines Agency is investigating whether people who receive it have a higher risk of blood clots
  • Doctors in the UK say people are spooked by the row and aren’t turning up for vaccination appointments
  • Data from Britain – which has used more doses than anywhere else – don’t appear to show anything unusual

Boris Johnson today revealed he will be getting the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine ‘very shortly’ as the government scrambles to reassure the public it is safe despite chaos in Europe.

Speaking at PMQs, Mr Johnson said he was ‘pleased to discover’ that he is in line for his jab, with over-50s now being covered. 

And he delivered a defiant rebuke to countries such as Germany, France and Italy who have paused their rollout despite experts insisting there is no evidence of a link to blood clots. 

‘It will certainly be Oxford/AstraZeneca that I will be having,’ the premier said.

The comments came amid fears Britons are cancelling appointments after being scared off by the European moves against AstraZeneca’s jab.

Doctors involved in the UK’s mammoth roll-out say patients due their second dose have called with concerns about the vaccine, despite the EU’s own drug regulator, as well as the UK’s and the World Health Organization all insisting it is safe. 

One GP claimed up to 10 per cent of people scheduled for appointments were either not showing up, asking to cancel or double-checking which vaccine they were getting before turning up. 

NHS doctor and volunteer Dr Karan Raj claimed he was ‘inundated’ with people saying they were worried about it and Dr Mohan Sekeram, a GP in South London, said the international row has led to patients refusing the vaccine. 

It comes as the former chief of Britain’s vaccine regulator the MHRA, Sir Kent Woods, said European officials had ‘dented public confidence’ with their ‘disorderly’ reaction to the issue, and he described attempts to link the jab to clots as ‘a big jump’.

Professor Jeremy Browne, a lung doctor and member of the JCVI, which drew up the UK’s vaccine programme warned people will die of Covid because of the delays in Europe and the damage being done to public trust.

Doctors and officials warn it is far more dangerous for people to not get vaccinated and even the European Medicines Agency has urged people to keep taking the vaccine because blood clots don’t appear to be any more common than usual.

Speaking at PMQs, Mr Johnson said he was ‘pleased to discover’ that he is in line for his jab, with over-50s now being covered

Officials and scientists fear the knee-jerk reactions from more than a dozen countries in Europe, which is staring down the barrel of a third wave because of its own haphazard vaccination drive, risk derailing Britain’s attempts to vaccinate its way out of lockdown if people start to back out of getting their jabs. 

Britons on the street yesterday claimed the row hadn’t put them off, calling it ‘scare-mongering’ and saying ‘the chances of getting hit by a bus are probably higher’ – but others said it had made them nervous about getting the jab or added to concerns they already had about its safety.

Matt Hancock today urged people to keep getting AstraZeneca’s vaccine and said Britain must ‘keep calm and carry on jabbing’ if it wants to get life back to normal. 

The Health Secretary is expected to reassure the public at a Downing Street press conference scheduled for 5pm tonight. He is also expected to brag about the vaccine roll-out steaming ahead, with everyone over the age of 50 in England now being invited for their appointment. 

It came as Dominic Cummings today launched a devastating attack on Mr Hancock, insisting the vaccine drive was only a success because he and science chief Patrick Valance insisted he was stripped of control. In an extraordinary assault, the maverick former No10 chief said the Department of Health was a ‘smoking ruin’ last spring after disasters over PPE procurement and therapeutics.



Dr Karan Raj, a surgeon and lecturer at Imperial College London (left), said he has been ‘inundated’ with comments on TikTok from people who are worried about the vaccine. But David Sharp, 71 (centre), a retired chef from Hackney, and Amanda Emin, 35 (right), a customer support worker from Leytonstone, said they were not worried about the news

More than a dozen countries in Europe have stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid unproven concerns it is linked to blood clots

Dr Raj, who is an NHS surgeon and Imperial College London lecturer, said the hysteria in the EU was having a knock-on effect in the UK, particularly among younger people.

He is part of of a team of volunteers trying to educate people about vaccine lies and myths online and said he felt compelled to create a video after being contacted by hundreds of people worried about getting the jab. 

Dr Raj said: ‘I have been inundated in comments on my videos about people scared about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots and worried about receiving first and second doses.

‘They’ve seen the news from Europe about different countries suspending their vaccination and that has made them worried with some saying they won’t get a jab or will wait for a Pfizer one.

‘It’s one thing to have some sort of conspiracy that goes online and that becomes a vaccine myth which is worrying, but this is at a governmental, official level. Naturally people listen to this and are led more easily by these concerns because it’s at official level.

‘But the UK has delivered more of these jabs than the rest of Europe put together and hasn’t seen the concerns that have been highlighted in Europe so I thought it was the opportune moment to put out a video to emphasise that.’ 

The former chief executive of the UK’s MHRA drug regulator said what is happening in Europe is ‘disorderly’ and the connections being made were a ‘big jump’.

Sir Kent Woods told BBC Breakfast that the way Europe has dealt with the blood clot issue has put a ‘dent in public confidence’.

He said: ‘I’m afraid there will have been a denting of public confidence because of this disorderly situation in Europe where individual countries have done different things for different reasons.

‘The intention was that there should be a single safety review at the European Medicines Agency and that the member states would follow the advice.

‘There was a press conference from the EMA yesterday afternoon in which the advice was repeated that the vaccine was considered to be safe and that countries should continue to use it.’

Stopping vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab would put significantly more people at risk that continuing with immunisation while the alleged link is investigated, he said.

Sir Kent added: ‘The events that have been described are events that occur not infrequently in the general population, and to establish a link with vaccination is a big jump.

‘The second point to remember is that the people who have been preferentially vaccinated are not simply the average population – they are older people and people with less good health histories, so you will expect these events to occur to some extent anyway.

‘And the key challenge for the regulatory agencies is to establish whether the event rates which are being seen in vaccinated people is any higher than would occur in the population if they were not vaccinated.’

GPs say they have been contacted by patients who are either worried about the vaccine, have questions about it, or don’t want to have it any more.

Dr Mohammed Abbas Khaki, a doctor in London, told The Times his patients were ‘worried’ by the reports.

‘They’ve already had one dose and they felt maybe that will be okay,’ he said patients had told him in discussions. ‘Or maybe they should switch to Pfizer-BioNTech and restart the whole process with Pfizer.’ 

Switching to the Pfizer vaccine is not expected to be allowed by the NHS because regulators have not yet tested whether the jabs can be mixed up in short succession.

And there aren’t enough Pfizer doses to go around even if everybody wanted one, so the NHS doesn’t let people choose which vaccine they have – speed is the number one priority and both are proven to be safe and effective.

Dr Sarah Jarvis told Times Radio that one in 10 of her patients were either ‘just not showing up’, phoning with concerns or asking before they left home whether they were going to be given the AstraZeneca jab.

Dr Mohan Sekeram, a GP in South London, said the international row has led to patients refusing the vaccine with concerns over blood clots.

He said surgery staff had been working hard to ‘alleviate people’s concerns and give them as much information as possible because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.’ 

He added: ‘We’ve had to explain to them that actually, there’s no evidence around this and that the MHRA also holds the line there’s no substantive evidence that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots in patients who have had the vaccine.’ 

Dr David Fox, a clinical director in Hastings, told doctors’ news website Pulse that patients were turning up for their appointments but then refusing to have the AstraZeneca jab despite reassurance from doctors.

Dr Dave Triska, a GP in Surrey, said his local vaccination centre was empty this morning because people had failed to turn up for appointments amid mounting concern over the vaccines.

And Dr Rupa Joshi, in Wokingham, said patients had initially favoured the British-made jab but she was now worried how many people who had appointments would actually turn up. She added a neighbouring practice had quite a few no-shows already today.

The suspension follows reports of 37 incidents around Europe of people becoming ill with blood clots shortly after having the jab.

Officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Medicines Agency and UK regulators have advised countries to keep using the vaccine because there is no evidence that these incidents were linked to vaccine.

Health workers are afraid that Europe’s row over the safety of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will have knock-on effects on people in Britain, and there are already reports of members of the public turning down the Oxford jab. Scientists and regulators in the UK, EU and World Health Organization insist it is safe to continue using (Pictured: A man receives a vaccine at a church in west London)

VACCINATION EXTENDS TO OVER-50s 

All over-50s in England are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, Matt Hancock confirmed today as the programme expands downwards from over-55s.

The Health Secretary said he was ‘delighted’ the roll-out was being expanded to the final age group on the priority list. NHS boss Sir Simon Stevens added it was ‘another milestone’ reached in the race to beat the virus.

NHS England’s website for booking jab appointments now allows everyone ‘aged 50 and over’ to check-in. 

Once all 2.4million people in this age group — the last on No10’s nine-point priority list — have been offered a dose, over-40s will be invited. Estimates suggest the roll-out could move onto that next stage before the end of March. 

The expansion comes exactly 100 days after Britain became the first country in the world to begin vaccinating the public against Covid. Maggie Keenan received her first dose on December 8 in Coventry.

More than 24.8million Britons have already received their first dose of the Covid jab — and half of all adults are expected to be vaccinated by the end of the week. 

Experts say all the evidence suggests the cases have been coincidental, with the numbers of blood clots actually lower than in the general population. Germany raised concerns about a very specific clotting condition that can affect the brain, which it claims has happened unusually often, but it has still only had seven cases. 

Professor Jeremy Brown, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), said the move by some EU members was ‘not sensible’ and ‘not logical’.

‘Many of these countries are going through a third wave, and by stopping using the vaccine they’re actually literally causing more problems,’ he told Good Morning Britain.

‘By not using the vaccine, this is going to directly lead to an increased incidence of Covid infection and people will die as a consequence of these decisions.’

He added: ‘There is the concern that what’s happening in Europe might make people in the UK less confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, unnecessarily so, because it’s perfectly safe.’

The former chief executive of Britain’s MHRA – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – Sir Kent Woods said that European countries have overreacted.

He said on BBC Breakfast: ‘The intention was that there should be a single safety review at the European Medicines Agency and that the member states would follow the advice.

‘There was a press conference from the EMA yesterday afternoon in which the advice was repeated that the vaccine was considered to be safe and that countries should continue to use it.’

He added: ‘The vaccine has a very strong safety record, and [people] shouldn’t hesitate to get the vaccine.

‘The events that have been described are events that occur not infrequently in the general population, and to establish a link with vaccination is a big jump.

‘The second point to remember is that the people who have been preferentially vaccinated are not simply the average population – they are older people and people with less good health histories, so you will expect these events to occur to some extent anyway.’   

The UK has given 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab so far, with the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine ‘no greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population’. 

Matt Hancock, pictured leaving 10 Downing Street today, urged people to keep getting AstraZeneca’s vaccine and said Britain must ‘keep calm and carry on jabbing’ if it wants to get life back to normal. The Health Secretary is expected to reassure the public at a Downing Street press conference scheduled for 5pm tonight

The Government is desperate to reassure people that the vaccine is safe and that it should continue to be used.

Business Secretary Kwasi Karteng said on BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘The first thing I would like to say is that the jab is safe.

PEOPLE ‘ARE DYING BECAUSE OF HOLD-UP’

Professor Jeremy Brown, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), said the decisions of European countries suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine were ‘not sensible’ and ‘not logical’.

‘Many of these countries are going through a third wave, and by stopping using the vaccine they’re actually causing more problems,’ he told Good Morning Britain.

‘By not using the vaccine, this is going to directly lead to an increased incidence of Covid infection and people will die as a consequence of these decisions.’

He added: ‘There is the concern that what’s happening in Europe might make people in the UK less confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, unnecessarily so, because it’s perfectly safe.’

The use of the vaccine has been stopped in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

‘We’ve got an extremely effective rollout programme – I think by the end of the week 50 per cent of the British adult population will have been vaccinated – and if people do get the call, I think they should take the jab.

‘And we are looking at the effects of the vaccine rollout day by day. Hospitalisation rates have fallen, the death rate thankfully from the disease has fallen considerably and incidence of people catching Covid has also fallen – the R rate is well below 1.0 and I think it has been a very effective programme.’ 

Despite doctors and officials worrying that people will turn down the vaccine because of the blood clot row, members of the public have been more optimistic.

David Sharp, 71, a retired chef from Hackney, who recently had the jab, said: ‘It went brilliantly. I had no concerns going into it whatsoever. 

‘I couldn’t care less where I got it from. You don’t get a choice. If they’ve done all their research, then that’s fine with me.’

James Danby, 58, a retired locksmith from Stratford, who had the jab yesterday, said: ‘It went really well. I got here, I was early, and then it was done and dusted in 12 minutes.

‘I haven’t really paid much attention to the press around it. I think it’s all a bit scare-mongering too much to be honest. I think Europe is being a bit overly cautious. I trust our National Health Service and I think our scientists are the best in the world.’ 

Amanda Emin, 35, a customer support worker from Leytonstone, east London received the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab yesterday. 

James Danby, 58, a retired locksmith from Stratford, said the European decisions were ‘scare-mongering’

Ms Emin, who has fibromyalgia, said she was nervous about getting the jab at first, but has since been convinced.

She said: ‘A few months ago I was really apprehensive about the vaccine. It was rolled out so soon. I didn’t know in five or 10 years time what the repercussions could be. 

‘Several of my friends and my friends’ parents have been getting it, and I just thought what are the chances? The chances of getting hit by a bus in the street are probably higher.’  

But some were more apprehensive about the risk, saying this had added to old concerns or brought up new ones.    

Muriel Tattersall, 75, from Bristol, admitted she was a little more hesitant about having her Astra-Zeneca vaccine.

She said: ‘I had my first dose on February 15 – but I initially wasn’t going to take it up when I first got the letter. It took me quite a while to actually book it – I was hesitant at first.

‘I have been a bit bothered by what I’ve seen on the news about it. I don’t particularly want to go back and have my second dose.

‘I think if there is any measure of hesitation over the safety of it, then maybe it’s just as well to suspend it. These vaccines are quite new and have been done quite quickly.

‘I didn’t have any side effects from my first dose, apart from a bit of stiffness in my joints. I don’t have a date for my second dose yet, and I don’t know whether I will book it. But I suppose since I have had the first then I might as well and I’ll be fine.’


Muriel Tattersall, 75, from Bristol, admitted she was a little more hesitant about having her Astra-Zeneca vaccine amid the row; Ashley Woodhouse, 35, from Leeds, said he did not want to get the vaccine and this had strengthened his resolve


Kat Blazeka, 22, from Leeds, admitted she is concerned about getting the Oxford vaccine but still intends to get it, while Linda Sweeney, 60 and also from Leeds, said she would be ‘reluctant’ now but would probably still get the jab

Ashley Woodhouse, an unemployed 35-year-old, from Leeds, was not going to get the vaccine prior to the news about the blood clots and has had his belief confirmed even more.

‘There is NO indication AstraZeneca jab caused blood clots’, EU drug regulator insists

EU regulators yesterday shot down the blood clot fears which have prompted 14 European countries to call a halt to AstraZeneca jabs, saying there is no evidence the vaccine causes dangerous side-effects.

The European Medicines Agency said it was ‘firmly convinced’ that injections with the AstraZeneca shot should continue, joining the WHO and the UK government in a full-throated defence of the vaccine amid fury at EU nations including France and Germany for suspending the jabs.

EMA safety experts say a ‘very small number of people’ have come down with blood disorders but there is ‘no indication’ that these were caused by the jab, which 11million people have already had in the UK.

‘We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death outweigh the risk of these side effects,’ said EMA chief Emer Cooke.

Countries including France will now face pressure to resume AstraZeneca jabs after the EMA delivered its verdict and reiterated that the number of blood clots ‘seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population’.

Italy earlier admitted that its suspension of AstraZeneca jabs was a ‘political’ move while French doctors accused Emmanuel Macron of ‘giving in to panic’ and a German lawmaker said the ban could cause a ‘catastrophe’.

Germany sought to justify its move by saying that one particular kind of blood clot, a ‘sinus vein thrombosis’, had occurred seven times among the 1.6million people vaccinated when only around one case would be expected. By contrast, only four such cases have been identified in the UK out of 11million doses administered.

He said: ‘Hearing about people suffering from blood clots after getting their vaccines makes me not want to get one even more. I didn’t want one anyway but this news just adds to that.

‘I suffer from MS and I’m worried about putting anything into my body which I don’t know the effects of. I don’t think we know enough about the vaccinations to be offering them to anyone and everyone.

‘Maybe this blood clot thing will help people see that. I don’t trust the jab and I won’t be getting it even if it’s offered.’

And Linda Sweeney, a 60-year-old gran-of-nine from Leeds, admitted the news of the potential blood clots has made her worried about receiving the Oxford vaccine.

She said: ‘I have my jab tomorrow and, after seeing the news about some people getting blood clots, I’m very worried about it. I don’t know which jab I’m getting until I arrive at the surgery, so I’m quite concerned they’ll try and give me the Oxford one.

‘After hearing how some people have reacted I don’t really want it but what can I do? I won’t get a choice in the matter. If it does turn out to be the Oxford one I think I’ll reluctantly take it.

‘I don’t feel very comfortable about it but what if I don’t take the vaccine then get Covid? That would be terrible.’    

Kat Blazeka, 22, from Leeds, admitted she is concerned about getting the Oxford vaccine but still intends to get it.

She said: ‘I’m due to get the vaccine today [Tuesday] and I’m not sure which one it will be yet so I’m a bit anxious.

‘The news today has left me feeling particularly apprehensive. I’m young but I do have a weak immune system because I have asthma, so there is a real concern about after-effects.

‘Despite that, I still intend to get the jab today, even if it is the Oxford one.’

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, moved to reassure patients that the vaccine was safe.

He said: ‘Over 24 million people in the UK have now been vaccinated, many of whom have successfully received the Astra Zeneca vaccine with no side effects. Where patients have reported side effects such as flu-like symptoms and muscle aches, these have been minor and transient.

‘The public should be reassured that whilst these new vaccines were developed and approved at speed, no corners were cut and patient safety has been, and remains, paramount.’

Government ministers are also desperate to encourage people to keep accepting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in an op-ed in The Sun: ‘We know getting the jab is the best way to protect ourselves and the people around us. It is also our way out of this pandemic.’

He added: ‘Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have now been administered across the UK and, in fact, the reported cases among the people vaccinated is lower than what would be expected to happen naturally in the general population…

‘Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and the most important thing we can do right now is keep calm and carry on jabbing.’ 

DANIEL HANNAN: Europe is playing politics with lives. They banned our Covid jab and fought to keep it. They can’t agree with themselves – and the fallout could be fatal 

This was the week that the EU utterly lost its head. To the incredulity of its health chiefs, and the horror of its friends overseas, it has dragged its vaccine policy to the level of the Kindergarten.

On the one hand, we’ve seen member states ban the export of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and threaten legal action against the manufacturer for not getting it to them quickly enough.

On the other hand, they’ve been busy casting doubt over the jab’s effectiveness, seizing consignments, and suspending its distribution in 15 countries because of health fears.

We are in the realm of playground politics. ‘Give me your vaccine! Gimme, gimme! … Yeah, well I never wanted your stupid vaccine anyway!’

The vaccination centre at the Erfurt, Germany, exhibition centre is deserted on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. After the stopping of AstraZeneca vaccinations thousands of appointments are cancelled in Thuringia.

It’s not even as if EU leaders have shifted position. They make both complaints simultaneously.

France’s Emmanuel Macron has said the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is ‘quasi-ineffective’ for people over 65, yet his ministers have since been all over the airwaves threatening to sue the company for not allowing the EU to queue-jump and get more of it.

‘Europe is not going to be some Care Bear that sends money and expects nothing in return,’ said France’s Europe Minister, Clément Beaune, in an odd reference to the cuddly toy popular in the 1980s.

The Portuguese prime minister, António Costa, revealed that he ‘can’t wait for a second dose’; but then on Monday his government halted distribution of the first.

Seized

Italy banned a consignment of the vaccine from going to Australia on grounds that it was needed at home. It then seized a batch being distributed in Piedmont in Northern Italy after a man died following vaccination (officials have now confirmed his death was unrelated to the jab).

Meanwhile, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, last week outrageously asserted it is the UK which is limiting supply by prohibiting the export of vaccines — a false claim Eurocrats had been making for weeks and which prompted a formal rebuke from the Foreign Office.

It is hard to imagine that any of this would be happening if, instead of being the Oxford vaccine, it had been the Bologna vaccine or the Toulouse vaccine or the Heidelberg vaccine.

Indeed, as Nicola Magrini, the head of Italy’s medicines authority — which says the vaccine is safe — said yesterday: ‘We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations . . . The choice is a political one.’ 

Medical staff transport a patient to a waiting ambulance after arriving on a medical helicopter evacuated from another hospital, at CHU University Hospital in Angers, France, March 15

Last night there were signs from France and Italy of an imminent U-turn. But it is already too late. The damage has been done. 

The suspensions were notionally justified by fears of a link to blood clots. Even if such a risk existed, it would not justify causing thousands of needless Covid deaths. Yet there is no evidence of any such link.

The question is whether the number of such incidents — fewer than 40 following more than 17 million vaccinations —is higher among people who have had the jab than among people who haven’t.

The answer is it is not. On the contrary, it appears to be lower than both the proportion among people who have had the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and people who have had no jab.

The European Medicines Agency made clear that ‘the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk of side-effects’. Our own regulators agree, as does the World Health Organisation.

‘The bottom line, sadly, is that this good and effective vaccine is not being accepted by the public in many countries because of the row and the suspension,’ said Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the German head of the World Medical Association.

The International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis agreed: it said that ‘the small number of reported thrombotic events relative to the millions of administered Covid-19 vaccinations does not suggest a direct link.’

In plain English, the jab is safe. So why have so many EU member states stoked needless fears, reduced vaccine take-up and so guarantee a higher rate of fatalities?

When the first vaccine was authorised, I worried that prioritising the most vulnerable might undermine confidence in the inoculation programme.

Since, by definition, these groups are the likeliest to die, there was, I felt, a danger that people would blame the vaccine for what were, in fact, normal fatalities.

I had read about an outbreak of swine flu in New Jersey in 1976, to which the Ford administration responded with a national vaccine rollout.

Because 45 million Americans got the jab, some (as was statistically inevitable) died soon afterwards — in one case, dropping dead in the surgery.

It was pure coincidence, but it caused a panic — even in a pre-internet age when there was very little in the way of an anti-vax movement.

I suggested to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, that he should begin with healthcare workers and care home staff. He disagreed, arguing the absolute priority was to save as many lives as possible.

He was right and I was wrong. The British people have been admirably calm and level-headed, ignoring the deranged conspiracies of anti-vaxxers.

Distract

Across the Channel, sadly, it has been a different story.

By calling the Oxford vaccine’s safety into question, initially to distract from their own procurement failures, Eurocrats might have ended up stopping millions of people protecting themselves.

It seems EU countries will restart their programmes soon and even if the vaccine slightly increased clot risk, the balance of advantage will surely be found overwhelmingly to favour a continued rollout.

As epidemologist Dirk Brockmann from the German government’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said, ‘it is probably 100,000 times more likely [for someone] to die of Covid than because of an AstraZeneca vaccine.’

But crucial days have been lost in inoculating hundreds of thousands of people, with confidence so shaken in Covid vaccines that many will ignore the call to get a jab.

The Continent will remain closed for longer than it needed to have been — especially if rising cases (like those seen in Italy) turn into a third wave.

The EU, by peddling the sorts of scare stories we would expect from Russian or Chinese agent provocateurs, is endangering lives.

After the EU’s behaviour in recent months, you might be tempted to shrug and say ‘serves them right’.

Incompetence

But that would be a mistake. So far, almost 27 million doses have been administered here with no ill-effects beyond the mild symptoms that we expect after any vaccine — which show that it is working.

That number is more than in France, Germany, Italy and Portugal combined. The danger is irrational fears spread from the Continent to Britain — so our aim should be to lead by example, thereby reassuring nearby countries.

Ordinary Europeans are hardly to blame for Brussels incompetence. We wish our neighbours good health.

We also want their economies humming, buying our stuff and selling us theirs. And we want their hotels open to British travellers.

In fact, as we approach the point when most Britons are protected, I hope that we make some surplus doses available to Europe.

Eurocrats might resent it. They might even ramp up their anti-British micro-aggressions. But someone has to behave like a grown-up.

Lord Hannan is a former Conservative MEP and serves on the UK Board of Trade 

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