EU vaccine rollout row flares after French official brags about Ireland ‘surpassing’ UK

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Thierry Breton tweeted to celebrate the success of Ireland's rollout - JOHANNA GERON/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Thierry Breton tweeted to celebrate the success of Ireland's rollout - JOHANNA GERON/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The row with the EU over the rollout of Covid vaccines has been reignited after a senior official bragged about Ireland "surpassing" the UK on the number of double-jabbed adults.

France's EU Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted to celebrate the success of Ireland's rollout, saying that "EU factories keep supplying vaccines to the world".

His comments come months after a row started when the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca failed to deliver doses it had promised to the EU under its procurement contract, with Brussels believing the doses were being diverted to Britain.

The result was the European Union taking AstraZeneca to court, with a claim of millions of euros on the cards, and creating a mechanism to allow EU countries to block vaccine exports.

In April, at the height of the tensions, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, accused the EU of vaccine "brinkmanship".

Three EU countries – Ireland, Malta and Belgium – have now reached the 70 per cent mark for double doses, the point at which epidemiologists consider herd immunity to have been reached.

Micheal Martin, the Irish Taoiseach, used his country's achievement to have a dig at Britain, saying: "The vaccine rollout is continuing at great pace. Today, we edged ahead of our nearest neighbours."

The most recent numbers show that on average across the EU’s 27 member states, only 57.5 per cent of adults have had both doses.

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?

Despite Mr Breton's comments, only 77.4 per cent of French people have had their first dose and the country is lagging on double doses with only 59.5 per cent full coverage.

Nearly 200,000 people also took to the streets of his native France on Sunday, protesting the country's plan to impose vaccine certificates on citizens to enter restaurants, bars, cinemas and other public venues.

The move is to try to force the people in the famously vaccine-hesitant country to sign up for jabs.  

Observers who have followed the vaccine rollouts in both the EU and the UK are questioning the motives behind Commissioner Breton's tweet.

“Here is a chance for him to take a shot a Boris Johnson’s great success story but this is precisely not helpful,” Jacob F Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund told the Telegraph.

“Breton is using Ireland’s success as personal self-promotion. He has a receptive audience for this at home in France but also in Brussels, where people are frustrated with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol battles,” he said.

There is great frustration in Breton’s native France that the country is the only EU member state which remains on the ‘Amber Plus’ travel list, meaning people are still required to quarantine on arrival into England, Scotland and Wales.

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