Ursula von der Leyen lashes out at UK 'space race' on vaccines

Ursula von der Leyen lashes out at Boris Johnson’s ‘space race’ approach to vaccines as bitter German minister points to UK’s higher death rate and ‘endless suffering’

  • Ursula von der Leyen swiped at the ‘space race’ approach on vaccines at summit
  • EU and UK have clashed over supplies as bloc struggles with its chaotic rollout
  • German minister rejects comparisons saying the UK’s death rate is much higher 

Ursula von der Leyen has taken a barbed swipe at Boris Johnson over his ‘space race’ approach to vaccines as she faces a huge backlash over the EU shambles.

The European Commission president complained that some countries saw the drive to inoculate populations as a Cold War style ‘confrontation’.

The comments, as she addressed students attending the online Warwick Economics Summit, follow bitter clashes between the bloc and Britain over supplies.

Meanwhile, German minister Peter Altmeier has dismissed comparisons with the UK’s faster rollout, saying Mr Johnson’s handling of the crisis had resulted in a higher death rate and ‘endless suffering to tens of thousands of families’.

The UK hit another vaccination milestone yesterday, with 12million people having been given jabs. 

Ursula von der Leyen has taken a barbed swipe at Boris Johnson over his ‘space race’ approach to vaccines as she faces a huge backlash over the EU shambles

Mr Johnson (pictured last week) has been careful not to gloat over the UK’s faster rollout than the EU

Ms von der Leyen conceded last week that the UK had been able to act like a ‘speedboat’ compared to the EU’s ‘tanker’ in securing jabs.

And speaking to the summit on Saturday she said: ‘When I was your age the world was still divided into two blocs. 

‘The superpowers fought to expand or maintain their sphere of influence. This world is long gone… yet the old confrontational mindset is back.’

Following her humiliatingly-abandoned threat to block exports to the UK after AstraZeneca faced production problems in Belgium, she said: ‘Think of Covid-19 vaccines. 

‘Some countries view the search for a vaccine as a race among world powers, like the race for space in the 1960s.’ 

She added: ‘This is not a competition between Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Americans – this is too serious.’

Meanwhile, German economy minister Peter Altmeier – an ally of Angela Merkel – rejected criticism that it has a vaccination rate of just 3.7 per cent.

‘I don’t want to compare with Great Britain,’ he said. 

‘Their number of infections is far too high to this day. The death rate is significantly higher than ours. 

‘This has brought endless suffering to tens of thousands of families. So far we have come through the crisis much better in Germany.’

German economy minister Peter Altmeier – an ally of Angela Merkel – rejected criticism that it has a vaccination rate of just 3.7 per cent

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