A concerted campaign has been initiated by European Union nations to prescribe the Covid 19 vaccine to adults among their 450 million people.
The vaccines were given to the most vulnerable people on Sunday morning, to the health workers who care for them and to some politicians to convince the public that the vaccines are safe.
As early as Friday, the vaccines, produced by the German company BioNTech and U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, arrived in EU countries. Some of the earliest and hardest-hit virus hotspots in the world, including Italy and Spain, are located in the EU.
Initially, other EU nations, including the Czech Republic, spared the worst, only to see their health systems almost crumble in the fall.
In total, in the 27 EU countries, at least 16 million cases of coronavirus and more than 336,000 deaths have been reported – huge figures that experts believe still understate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and minimal testing.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, released a video praising the introduction of the vaccine, calling it “a moving moment of unity.”
In Germany, Hungary and Slovakia, some vaccinations in the EU started a day earlier. “Every day we wait is one day too many.”There are too many days waiting for us every day.
As the U.K., Canada and the U.S. had launched their vaccination programs with the same vaccine weeks earlier, the campaign was intended to ease frustrations that had built up, especially in Germany.
Every nation decides for itself who is going to receive the first vaccinations. Among others, Spain, France and Germany intend to first vaccinate the elderly and nursing home residents.
The nurse at Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital, the capital’s largest infectious disease center, will be the first in the world to receive the vaccine in Italy, which has the worst viral load in Europe with more than 71,000 deaths, accompanied by other health staff.
On the front lines of the war against the virus, Poland even prioritizes physicians, nurses and others. The wave that hit Western Europe hard in the spring, but was hit by high daily infection and death rates this fall, was largely spared the central European country.
EU leaders depend on the rollout of the vaccine to help the bloc retain a sense of stability in a challenging life-saving mission after a year of struggle in negotiating a post-Brexit trade agreement with Britain.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said, “It’s here, the good news at Christmas. This vaccine is the crucial key to ending this pandemic … It is the key to getting our lives back.”
Among the politicians who plan to get vaccinated against the virus on Sunday to encourage broader acceptance of vaccination are Slovak President Zuzana Caputova and Bulgarian Health Minister Kostadin Angelov.
Meanwhile, in France and Spain, the first instances of a new virus variant spreading rapidly across London and southern England have now been identified. The new version, which is much easier to transmit, according to the British authorities, has prompted European countries, the United States and China to place new travel restrictions on individuals from Britain.
BioNTech, a German pharmaceutical firm, is optimistic that its coronavirus vaccine is successful against the latest British strain, but further tests are required to be fully certain.
On January 6, the European Medicines Agency will deliberate on whether to authorize a second vaccine against coronavirus, this time from Moderna, already approved for use in the United States.