The European Medicines Agency on Jan. 6 will be considering approving a second coronavirus vaccine, this one by Moderna, which has already been approved for use in the United States.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — European Union nations officially kicked off a coordinated effort Sunday to give COVID-19 vaccinations to some of the most vulnerable among their nearly 450 million people, marking a moment of hope in the continent’s battle against the worst public health crisis in a century.
Shots were administered Sunday morning to health care workers, the elderly and some leading politicians to reassure the public that the vaccinations are safe.
In Prague, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis received his shot at dawn and asserted: “There’s nothing to worry about.” In Rome, five doctors and nurses wearing white scrubs sat in a semi-circle at Rome’s Spallanzani infectious diseases hospital to receive their doses.
“Getting vaccinated is an act of love and responsibility toward the collective whole,” Claudia Alivernini, a 29-year-old Spallanzani nurse, said on the eve of being the first to receive the shot in Italy, which has Europe’s worth virus toll at more than 71,000 dead.
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza, speaking outside the hospital, said the coordinated EU rollout was a sign of hope for the continent, but that people still cannot let down their guard for several months more.
“We still have difficult months ahead,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day, but we still need to exercise caution … this vaccine is the true path to close out this difficult season.”
The vaccines, developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer, started arriving in super-cold containers at EU hospitals on Friday from a factory in Belgium. The EU has seen some of the world’s earliest and hardest-hit virus hot spots, including Italy and Spain.
Others EU countries, like the Czech Republic, were spared the worst early on only to see their health care systems near collapse in the fall.
Altogether, the EU’s 27 nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths — huge numbers that experts still agree understate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and limited testing.