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Matt Hancock’s claims about the positive impact of Brexit on the coronavirus vaccine approval has been dubbed “just not true” by Nicola Sturgeon. The Health Secretary had argued that Britain wouldn’t have been able to approve the vaccine so early as a member of the EU. However, the First Minister told ITV Peston that this was simply not the case, citing the MHRA’s own chief executive.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I just think on that point he’s factually wrong.
“I don’t really want to get into criticising Matt Hancock today because it’s a day where, I think, all of us are feeling quite positive and optimistic.
“He’s been on the front line of this so I’m sure he’s feeling that sense of relief and a bit of lightness of heart that I’ve been feeling all day today.
“The head of the MHRA said that that is just not true.”
She continued: “The vaccine has been authorised in the UK under existing EU legislation, which is still in place in the UK.
“Countries can, if they choose to do, authorise outside the European Medicines Agency framework in situations of a health crisis.
“So what the UK has done is within EU law.
“The story of vaccine development generally over these last few months is an extraordinary and hugely positive global story.”
Mr Hancock had told talkRADIO: “It is absolutely clear that because we’ve left the EU, I was able to change the law so that the UK alone could make this authorisation decision.
“Because we’ve left the EU, we’ve been able to move faster yet it still be done with all of the safety checks which would have been done anyway.
“So, we’ve got a faster approval because of Brexit, which is obviously good news for everyone.”
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However, Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the Government’s medical regulator, MHRA, has disputed this claim.
She said the process they had followed to give the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the green light was due to EU law.
Dr Raine explained: “We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until January 1.
“Our speed or our progress has been totally dependent on the availability of data in our rolling review and the independent advice we have received.
“So I hope that clarifies the point about the European relationship.”
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