Matt Hancock has been rebuked by members of the public after suggesting the speedy approval of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was due to Brexit.
Hancock caused controversy after insisting Britain’s exit from the EU meant it could rapidly approve new vaccines.
This comes after Britain became the first country in the world to approve a jab for coronavirus on Wednesday.
Britain’s medical regular, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), approved the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which is said to have a 90% success rate and could be doled out to NHS staff by next week.
Speaking on talkRadio, Hancock said Britain would not have been in a position to approve the medicine with such speed had it still been a member of the EU.
He said: “We backed the scientists and they’ve done a great job and the MHRA would not approve a vaccine unless it was safe and effective.
“What this now means is that we’ve got a vaccine which means help is on its way.”
Programme presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer asked whether the swift approval had been a “benefit of Brexit”.
Hancock replied: “Well, that’s right. 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.”
Reacting on Twitter, @busterAmurdoch accused Hancock of misconstruing facts: “The UK has a long Standing regulatory provision that allows it to diverge from the EMA in the case of urgent public need. Right now the UK is still under the EU regulatory framework until the 31st December 2020.”
Clive Brown pointed out: “This is a complete lie we are still in the Single Market at this point in time.”
Robert Scott added: “Disappointed that Julia was not more forensic. This is emergency authorisation rather than approval and we should be told what steps/checks have been omitted or accelerated.”