Coronavirus UK Updates: Alok Sharma defends UK’s rapid approval of Covid vaccine

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Coronavirus UK Updates: Scotland doubles police on English border to enforce travel ban
Coronavirus UK Updates: Scotland doubles police on English border to enforce travel ban

Good morning, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be running the liveblog today.

The government has again defended the UK’s swift approval of a coronavirus vaccine amid global criticism of the speedy process.

Business secretary Alok Sharma this morning said the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is “very much regarded as the gold standard by international scientists” and has been “absolutely meticulous in this whole process”.

“The MHRA is of course independent and people should feel entirely confident that this vaccine is safe. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been approved. It wouldn’t have got the clearance from the MHRA,” he said.

His comments came as Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease scientist, apologised for remarks that appeared to criticise the UK’s approval process.

Fauci, who leads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, initially said the UK “ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile” and it had “rushed through” approval of the vaccine

He also said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been careful to avoid “cutting corners” because it did not want to fuel vaccine scepticism.

However, Fauci later told the BBC he did not mean to imply “any sloppiness even though it came out that way” and said: “I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.”

Sharma also said said he was “very confident” 800,000 doses of the jab would be available for the start of the rollout next week and he hoped “we will have some millions” by the end of the year.

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