Boris Johnson: 'Capitalism' and 'greed' behind UK vaccine success

24 March 2021, 08:50 | Updated: 24 March 2021, 11:27

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Boris Johnson has sparked an outcry after reportedly telling Tory MPs that "capitalism" and "greed" were behind the UK's successful coronavirus vaccine rollout.

After Tuesday's press briefing, it was reported that the Prime Minister made the comments to his backbench MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee.

He said the country was "step by step, jab by jab ... on the path to reclaiming our freedoms", with 28.3 million people having received the first dose of a vaccine up to 22 March.

However, the Conservative Party leader is understood to have repeatedly asked those at the 1922 Committee meeting of backbenchers to forget he used the term as he praised AstraZeneca for supplying the Oxford vaccine at cost.

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The PM swiftly backtracked, adding: "Actually I regret saying it. Forget I said that." It was also suggested he may have made the remark jokingly.

He is now facing a backlash from doctors and the opposition, with Independent SAGE member Dr Gabriel Scully labelling the comments "disgusting".

Labour's Richard Burgon said the PM the "wrong" to suggest capitalism was the force behind the rollout.

"Billions in public funds went into developing the vaccines," he tweeted.

"Now the vaccine patents must be waived to ramp up production and save lives all across the world."

It follows his remarks on the anniversary of the UK's first lockdown on Tuesday, where he praised the public for coming together and showing "endurance" throughout the past 12 months.

Mr Johnson said: "When I asked you to go into lockdown exactly a year ago, it seemed incredible that in the 21st Century, this was the only way to fight a new respiratory disease: to stay at home, to avoid human contact, to shun so many of the patterns of behaviour that are most natural and obvious to all of us.

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"But, we did it together. To protect the NHS, to save lives and for the entire British people, it's been an epic of endurance and privation.

"Of children's birthday parties cancelled, of weddings postponed, of family gatherings of all kind simply deleted from the diary.

"And worst of all, in that time, we've suffered so many losses and for so many people, our grief has been made more acute because we've not been able to see our loved ones in their final days, to hold their hands or even to mourn them together."