The EU’s row with the UK over the rollout of Covid vaccines has been reignited after a senior official bragged about Ireland "surpassing" the UK on the number of double-jabbed adults.
Thierry Breton, France’s EU Commissioner, tweeted to celebrate the success of Ireland’s rollout, saying EU factories "keep supplying vaccines to the world".
He posted: "More than 70 per cent of Irish adults are now fully vaccinated, surpassing the UK (73 per cent vs 72 per cent)."
More than 70% of Irish adults are now fully vaccinated, surpassing the UK (73% vs 72%).
Maith sibh, Éire 🇮🇪!
And the #RampUp continues: Dublin-based pharma company APC is investing in a new multi-technology #vaccine factory.
🇪🇺 factories keep supplying vaccines to the world. pic.twitter.com/teL7GLnrYz
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) August 1, 2021
The comments come months after a row started when the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca failed to deliver doses it had promised to the EU under its procurement contract, with Brussels claiming the doses were being diverted to Britain.
The result was the European Union taking AstraZeneca to court, with a claim of millions of euros on the cards, and creating a mechanism to allow EU countries to block vaccine exports.
In April, at the height of the tensions, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, accused the EU of vaccine "brinkmanship".
Commenting on Mr Breton’s comments, Nadim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said the efforts were not a "race", adding: "We want to help vaccinate the whole world."
Three EU countries – Ireland, Malta and Belgium – have now reached the 70 per cent mark for double doses, the point at which epidemiologists consider herd immunity to have been reached.
Micheal Martin, the Irish Taoiseach, used his country’s achievement to have a dig at Britain, saying: "The vaccine rollout is continuing at great pace. Today, we edged ahead of our nearest neighbours."
The most recent numbers show that, on average across the EU’s 27 member states, 57.5 per cent of adults have had both doses.
Share of the population fully vaccinated against Covid-19
On Monday, a UK government spokesman said: "Thanks to the tireless work of our NHS, armed forces and volunteers, we have delivered more than 85 million life-saving vaccines across the UK.
"We have one of the highest Covid-19 vaccine uptake rates in the world and over 72 per cent of adults have received both doses.
"The Government and NHS are working together to provide information and advice at every opportunity on how to get a vaccine and its benefits, including through a range of innovative partnerships."
Despite Mr Breton’s comments, only 77.4 per cent of French people have had their first dose and the country is lagging on double doses, with 59.5 per cent full coverage.
Observers who have followed the rollouts in the EU and the UK questioned the motives behind Mr Breton’s tweet.
"Here is a chance for him to take a shot a Boris Johnson’s great success story, but this is precisely not helpful," Jacob F Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told the Telegraph.
"Breton is using Ireland’s success as personal self-promotion. He has a receptive audience for this at home in France but also in Brussels, where people are frustrated with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol battles."
Nearly 200,000 people took to the streets of France on Sunday to protest against the country’s plan to impose vaccine certificates for citizens to enter restaurants, bars, cinemas and other public venues. The move is an attempt to force the people in the vaccine-hesitant country to sign up for jabs.
France is the only EU state on the "amber plus" travel list, meaning people are required to quarantine on arrival into England, Scotland and Wales.