France 'stole' 5m vaccine doses from the UK in 'hostile' move - reports

6 October 2021, 09:54 | Updated: 6 October 2021, 09:57

Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 in June
Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 in June. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

France claimed almost 5 million doses of Covid vaccine that were destined for the UK, according to reports.

French president Emmanuel Macron reportedly worked with senior EU officials to divert a large export of AstraZeneca jabs to France.

The move would have cost lives had it not been for the steady flow of Pfizer jabs ensuring the success of the UK's vaccine rollout, according to The Sun.

The tabloid also said ministers labelled France's actions as more comparable to that of a "hostile state" than "the behaviour of a close ally".

LBC has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for a comment.

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The supply of coronavirus vaccines was the subject of a heated row between the UK and the EU at the beginning of the year.

Whilst the UK's jab rollout has been praised for its speed and efficiency, the EU had a somewhat more stuttered programme marred by distrust of the vaccines, particularly AstraZeneca.

The vaccine hesitancy was not helped by officials publicly raising questions about the safety and efficacy of that particular vaccine.

Supply issues then led to the EU demanding AstraZeneca honour its contract with the bloc by diverting some of the UK-destined vaccines to them instead.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said in January that the reason supply was disrupted to the EU and not the UK at that point was because "teething issues" had already been resolved in Britain, as they had signed the contract with the pharmaceutical company three months earlier.

But EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides hit out at the claim, saying: "We reject the logic of first come first served.

"That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in contracts."

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The row led to a surge in support for Brexit three months after the transition period ended, with YouGov pollster Peter Kellner telling LBC in March that Brexit was "more popular than it has been at any point since the referendum" as a result.

Almost 70 per cent of respondents said the EU has behaved in a "hostile" way towards Britain during the dispute, and just 13 per cent said the bloc had acted like an "ally and a friend".

Mr Kellner said that Bloomberg's figures were at the higher end of poll findings, but the sentiment was real.

"Brexit is more popular than it has been at any point since the 2016 Referendum," he said.

"The row over vaccines and performance of the vaccines has been responsible for the shift."