“if we had listened to the Opposition, we would have stayed in the European Medicines Agency and we would never have been able to deliver the vaccine roll-out at the speed that we did.”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

January 19, 2022

Facts

During Prime Minister’s Questions on January 19th 2022, where the focus was on alleged Downing Street parties, Boris Johnson said: “if we had listened to the Opposition, we would have stayed in the European Medicines Agency and we would never have been able to deliver the vaccine roll-out at the speed that we did.”

Even if we were still a member of the EU, the UK regulator would have been able to authorise the vaccine roll-out on its own because EU law already allows it. This legislation took effect in the UK in 2012, long before Brexit was on the cards.

A UK government press release from 23 November 2020 spelt this out in terms. “If a suitable COVID-19 vaccine candidate, […] becomes available before the end of the transition period, EU legislation which we have implemented via Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations allows the MHRA to temporarily authorise the supply of a medicine or vaccine, based on public health need.”

Britain was still bound by the EMA regulations when the vaccine rollout began in December 2020.

The head of the MHRA, June Raine, clarified the situation when she said: “we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European Law which exist until 1st of January.”

Verdict 

Johnson made his tired and nonsensical claim about vaccines as he fended off questions from the Labour leader about lockdown parties.

Examples of Johnson or his ministers making similar false claims about the vaccine rollout can be found here, here, here, here and here.

The Prime Minister’s false statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.

We approached Mr Johnson’s office, the Cabinet Office and the No 10 Press Office to give them a chance to comment, but no reply.

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