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24th Mar 2021

Boris Johnson says ‘capitalism’ and ‘greed’ behind UK vaccine success

Charlie Herbert

The prime minister made the comments in a meeting with the 1922 Committee

Boris Johnson is coming under fire for suggesting that ‘capitalism’ and ‘greed’ were the reasons behind the success of the UK’s vaccine programme. He was speaking in a private meeting with Tory backbenchers, and is said to have then told those in the meeting to forget what he had said.

According to the Sun, the Prime Minister said on he video call: “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.”

Sources have said that Johnson then told those in the meeting to “remove that comment from your collective memory”.

Critics have said that the comments demonstrate the “warped” understanding that the PM has of how the vaccine was developed and rolled-out. Several have been quick to point out that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed by publicly funded universities, and that the vaccine has largely been rolled out by the NHS.

Director of the group Global Justice Now, Nick Dearden, said: “The prime minister will call this comment a slip of the tongue, but it’s an incredibly revealing remark. It shows just how warped his understanding of this crisis is.

“We have a vaccine because of massive public investment and the remarkable work of scientists at publicly-funded universities. We’ve rolled it out because of our incredible National Health Service.

“Greed, however, drove big pharma to privatise this work and withhold doses from millions worldwide to protect their profits. And, if Boris Johnson keeps letting it happen, there’ll be more coronavirus mutations that could send us back to square one.”

Opposition MPs have also criticised Johnson for his comments. Labour MP Richard Burgon labelled the comments as “wrong”, and highlighted how “billions in public funds went into developing the vaccine”.

Meanwhile Lib Dem frontbencher Layla Moran said that the comments were “not helpful”, with Labour MP Angela Eagle saying that “altruism not greed” will get us through the pandemic.

So there it is. Even on a topic that everyone seems to agree on, that the UK’s vaccine programme has been a stunning success, Boris Johnson has managed to put his own spin on it and completely miss the point of how our vaccination programme has been so successful.

It says everything about the PM that his perception of the vaccine success is that it has been the result of greed and capitalism, as opposed to the work of universities, scientists, and the health service.