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EU watchdog calls for longer-but-better Covid vaccine approval process after UK grants quick authorization

EU watchdog calls for longer-but-better Covid vaccine approval process after UK grants quick authorization
The European Medicines Agency has cautioned countries across the EU from rushing through authorization of Covid-19 vaccines, urging them to await the completion of their own regulatory mechanism.

On Wednesday morning, the UK announced that it had issued emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, making it the first nation to approve the widespread use of a coronavirus jab.

While the news was met with praise domestically, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying he was thrilled at its swift approval, authorities and lawmakers in the EU have criticized the speeded-up move.

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The European Medicines Agency responded to the UK’s decision by stating that the “EMA considers that the conditional marketing authorization is the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for use in the current pandemic emergency.” The EMA’s justification is that the European process is based on more evidence and checks than the UK’s emergency procedure.

Prominent EU lawmaker Peter Liese, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, described the UK’s emergency process as problematic, fearing it had been done too hastily and warning other countries in the bloc to avoid repeating Britain’s actions. “A few weeks of thorough examination by the European Medicines Agency is better than a hasty emergency marketing authorization of a vaccine.” 

The UK regulator has rebuffed the criticism, claiming that no corners were cut in the review process and calling it thorough and rigorous: “It’s very clear that separate teams have been working in parallel to deliver the most rigorous review of this vaccine.” 

Having approved the vaccine and ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, the UK will begin distributing the jabs in the next few days, as the NHS prepares for, what the government has described as, the most comprehensive vaccination program the nation has ever seen.

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