The Prime Minister hastily backtracked after making the comments at a private meeting of Tory MPs, going on to praise AstraZeneca for supplying the Oxford vaccine at cost.
But Mr Johnson’s ‘slip of the tongue’ has been slammed by activists campaigning for wider international access to jabs.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, 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.’
Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester and former health secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘Celebrating “greed” in a pandemic? Same old Tories.’
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts added: ‘It’s in the throwaway comments that the PM reveals himself. Greed will destroy us.’
Labour MP Barry Sheerman said the comments were ‘no surprise’ as ‘everyone who knows our Prime Minister well understands his admiration of selfishness and greed’.
The comments risk inflaming a vaccine row with the EU which is threatening to ban exports of jabs to the UK because it is angry that AstraZeneca has not supplied enough doses for the bloc.
Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the role played by pharmaceutical companies.
She told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister always acknowledges the strong success we’ve had in terms of the vaccine, not just the rollout, which is incredible, but also our ability as a country to develop the vaccine, the role that pharmaceutical companies and science and technology has played in that.
‘And actually I think that speaks to a great strength we have as a country.
‘And linked to that, of course, look at our contributions to Covax, the international scheme, to get the vaccine supplies elsewhere and demonstrate that we are a very, very strong force for good internationally when it comes to vaccines, science and pharmaceutical development.’
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