The European Union began blocking exports of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine on Thursday as Europe's leaders finally admitted they were wrong about the jab and that it worked. EU countries now recognise that the vaccine is vital to ramping up the slow pace of their vaccine programmes – which lag far behind those in Britain, the US, Serbia and Israel – after attacking AstraZeneca for delivery failures and branding its vaccine ineffective. Germany made the vaccine available to over-65s after Angela Merkel, the chancellor, called for age restrictions to be lifted. New data proved the jab was "highly effective". Jens Spahn, the country's health minister, said: "This is good news for any elderly person waiting to be vaccinated. They can now be vaccinated faster." Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said the AstraZeneca vaccine was "very efficient" and as good as the other EU-approved jabs. In January, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, sparked fury when he said the vaccine was only "quasi-effective" in older people – comments thought to have slowed French vaccinations further. Greece and Sweden announced they would lift age restrictions on the jab following Belgium, with Spain considering following suit as realisation dawns that countries were wrong not to follow Britain's lead in approving it for all ages.