United Against COVID-19: EU Countries to Start Vaccinations ‘the Same Day’

Written by | Saturday, December 19th, 2020

The EU’s 27 member countries aim to start COVID-19 vaccinations on “the same day” in a sign of unity, possibly a day or two before Christmas, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday (16 December). Her statement to the European Parliament came as pressure mounted on the bloc to catch up with the UK and the US, which have already started inoculating people with a vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech. “To get to the end of the pandemic, we will need up to 70% of the population vaccinated. This is a huge task, a big task. So let’s start as soon as possible with the vaccination together, as 27, with a start at the same day,” von der Leyen told MEPs. Von der Leyen emphasised that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first of six potential vaccines for which the EU has secured contracts.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which regulates the release of medicines in the EU, is bringing forward to next Monday a special meeting originally planned a week later to discuss conditional approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Europe’s drug regulator is under increasing pressure to quickly approve the COVID-19 vaccine developed by US giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, officials said, adding that once approved, the vaccine would be authorised two days later. EU states have the option of individually going ahead with vaccinations earlier under EMA emergency rules, but the European Commission wants a coordinated roll-out across the bloc to ensure no member state is left behind.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament has passed its seven-year EU budget by an overwhelming majority, paving the way for the EU to pursue its key programs – the €1.8 trillion budget and coronavirus recovery package was agreed by the European Council earlier this month, and was passed in the EP on Wednesday (16 December) evening. It includes a €15 billion top-up for 10 programmes, which it said will boost the fight against coronavirus, provide opportunities for the next generation, and protect European values. The EP president, David Sassoli, called it a “historic budget for a historic moment,” which lays the foundations for a “greener and fairer Europe”.
With Europe’s first coronavirus vaccinations having taken place in England this week, the vaccine will not mitigate the pandemic’s impact on European lives overnight. Talk has now turned to how we will navigate our daily lives as the coronavirus era comes to a close and begin to rebuild a sense of normalcy. In many countries in Europe and around the world, it’s hoped unprecedented mass vaccination programmes will eventually render all the many unprecedented restrictions moot but in the meantime, the choice of whether to vaccinate or not offers either a ticket to freedom or prolonging the agony of lockdown. “Immunity passports” were a concept floated early on in the pandemic to allow people who were presumed to be immune to COVID-19 to freely circulate in society. With the advent of a vaccine, the idea has now further evolved to encompass immunity through proof of vaccination.

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