The recent good news is that the European Union is set to start mass vaccinations against COVID-19 after Christmas as the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech gets through approval stages on Monday.
EU countries like Germany, France, Austria and Italy have all said that they plan to begin vaccinations starting from Dec. 27th as the number of cases in the continent increases sporadically. The EU will also follow in the footsteps of the British government and US which have both started inoculations earlier this month.
The approval came on Monday’s evening a the EU’s first COVID-19 vaccine as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as well as the European Commission gave the greenlight on the mass immunization campaign.
According to the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who made it known that doses would be made available for all EU countries at the same time and on the same conditions.
“Today we add an important chapter to a European success story. We approved the first safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. More vaccines will come soon,” she said.
And the developers of the vaccine Pfizer and BioNTech said they were ready to immediately shop initial doses of the vaccine which is branded in the EU as Comirnaty to tie 27 EU member states.
The vaccine for the EU members will be produced in BioNTech’s manufacturing sites in Germany while Pfizer’s manufacturing will be done at Puurs, Belgium according to both pharmaceutical giants.
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza hailed the approval as “the news we have been waiting for”.
“(It) opened up a new phase and gives us more strength and confidence” in tackling a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Europeans, he said. The new development is also reportedly hastened as a result of a new strain of the coronavirus rampaging some parts of Britain which has led to some countries shutting their borders to curb off the spread which has also disrupted trade ahead of the Christmas festival later on this week.
EMA officials said it was highly likely the vaccine would work against the new variant of the coronavirus and according to executive director of the body Emer Cooke made it known that it would take really long before the EU could inoculate its 450 million residents of the EU’s 27 countries.
“Vaccines alone will not be the silver bullet that will allow us to return to normal lives, but the authorisation of this first vaccine is definitely a major step in the right direction and an indication that 2021 can be brighter than 2020,” she told a news briefing.
EU’s Approach to Vaccination
With the new development, medical students, retired doctors, pharmacists and soldiers are being drafted into a European vaccination campaign of unprecedented scale.
And just like the US and UK, the EU could just prioritize more on frontline healthcare workers as well as vulnerable elderly residents of care homes while the national schemes might not reach the general public until the end of the first quarter of the year 2021.
The EMA had started a rolling review of preliminary data from Pfizer trials on Oct. 6 in an effort to speed an approval process that usually takes at least seven months and the organization initially granted the EMA clearance which was a conditional marketing approval (CMA) which is valid for only one year but could be renewed annually.
It can be converted into a standard marketing authorization after further data checks. This would be valid for five years but can be renewed for unlimited validity.
The process took longer than the ultra-fast emergency authorization given by Britain, the first western country to endorse a COVID-19 shot.
This will further be a way of seeing how capable Brussel is in unifying Europe amid its political pressure in order to speed up the process of curbing the pandemic which has led to 1.6 million fatalities since the beginning of the year.
The EU is said to have ordered some 200 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines which is enough to reach 100 million people paying €15.50 (US$18.90) per dose.
It will also buy an extra 100 million with a timetable for delivery still to be negotiated. EMA officials denied any political interference and defended the speed of the approval process.
“The focus was exclusively on the science, there were too many involved of the member states who would look into the science as to allow any political whitewashing or adaption,” said Harald Enzmann, chair of EMA’s Human Medicines Committee (CHMP).