France has been accused of stealing five million coronavirus vaccine doses destined for the UK. worked with EU chiefs to divert the large batch of Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs to his country earlier this year.
The vaccines were expected to arrive in the UK but were instead redirected from Holland at the eleventh hour, according to The Sun.
The daily quoted senior government sources as saying the “outrageous” move could have cost lives if not for the UK’s successful rollout of the Pfizer jab.
AstraZeneca boss Ruud Dobber had announced publicly on 22 March that a vaccine batch was expected to arrive in Britain from its Halix site in Holland.
But it reportedly never arrived, having instead been diverted to the EU’s scheme.
The newspaper added it was also claimed France made a veiled threat to prime minister Boris Johnson that it would cut off supplies of Pfizer, which would have jeopardised Britain’s vaccine rollout.
The alleged incident is said to have sparked a major row between Johnson and his French counterpart.
It came at a time when Macron was criticising the AstraZeneca vaccine, claiming it was “quasi-ineffective” and telling reporters the jab “doesn’t work the way we were expecting to”.
He also appeared to criticise the UK’s vaccine rollout strategy, which at the time had resulted in more people being given a first dose than any other European country.
The European Union was simultaneously threatening to impose export controls on Covid-19 vaccines after a major row with AstraZeneca, which was accused of cutting initial deliveries to the bloc by up to 60 per cent.
A government source told The Sun, “The French stole our vaccines at the same time as they were slagging them off in public and suggesting they weren’t safe to use”, stating, “It was an outrageous thing to do and not the action of an ally, which was made very clear to them.”