The senior MEP lashed out after the US government authorised Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose jab, enabling millions more Americans to be vaccinated in the coming weeks and setting the shot up for additional approvals around the world. The vaccine is the third to be authorised in the USA following ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both of which require two doses.
Mr Verhofstadt, who was the European Parliament’s lead negotiator throughout the Brexit process, was furious at the slow progress being made by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
He tweeted: “US approves Johnson & Johnson vaccine. What is the EMA waiting for?
“Every day counts in deaths, economic damage, public trust and – as AstraZeneca case shows – access to production.
“EU has all the facilities to compete, but not the procedures!”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the emergency use authorization of the J&J vaccine for adults aged 18 and older following Friday’s unanimous endorsement by the agency’s panel of outside experts.
Shipments to vaccination sites were expected to begin today or tomorrow.
President Joe Biden hailed the move but cautioned Americans against celebrating too soon.
He said: “Things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable.”
READ MORE: German MEP lashes out at EU vaccine ‘crisis’ and praises UK
Mr Verhofstadt’s rant against the EMA, which was based in London before its transferred to Amsterdam ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU, came after German MEP admitted “Brexit freedoms” allowed the UK to pull well ahead of the EU in its coronavirus vaccine programme.
Coronavirus cases have started rising again in France and Germany and there is huge concern about new more infectious variants of the virus.
Dr Gunnar Beck, who represents the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, claimed Germany could have done “so much better” without “the dead hand of the EU”.
EU member states decided to hand responsibility for vaccine purchase to the European Commission, rather than buying as individual countries.
But the Commission failed to order enough of the right vaccines resulting in serious shortages across the continent, bitter disputes between member states and a furious backlash against the bloc’s leadership.