Hope Amid Despair: Vaccination Begins as COVID-19 Cases Soar Across Europe

Written by | Monday, January 4th, 2021

The EU is still several months away from having enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September 2021 for delivery targets. “Distribution of the full 200 million doses [from Pfizer] is scheduled to be completed by September 2021,” a European Commission spokesman said on Monday (28 December), as the World Health Organization (WTO) announced it has listed Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for emergency use. WHO’s validation of the vaccine – the first since the start of the pandemic – has been hailed as a critical step that the United Nations health agency said aims to make the vaccine more readily available in developing nations. “This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said in the statement.
Meanwhile, European countries have launched COVID-19 crackdown to fend off third wave, as surging coronavirus cases have provoked tough new measures across the continent. Britain reported more than 50,000 positive virus cases for a fourth successive day ending on 1 January as a new variant of COVID-19 spreads across the country. The figures came as a detailed study, by Imperial College in London, into the new coronavirus variant found it affected a much greater proportion of people under 20. Experts behind the study warned that the variant was “hugely” transmissible and increased the R number, the rate by which an infected person spreads the virus to others, by 0.7. In France, police were unable to halt an illegal New Year’s rave in the northwestern part of the country that saw about 2,500 party-goers in close contact, in direct violation of COVID-19 restrictions. Attended by people from foreign countries, including Spain and the UK, the rave occurred after clashes with police. Many of the ravers were still on the site on Friday as a sanitary cordon was placed around it.
In Ireland, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has warned that the number of people hospitalized in the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has already exceeded the total registered in the second wave, with a sharp rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent days. As Europe struggles to get to grips with the third wave of the virus, made more difficult by the latest variant, there has been a total of 2,205 COVID-19 related deaths in Ireland and 86,894 confirmed cases. The first jabs will be administered at four hospitals around the country and in nursing homes whose residents and staff are among those who will receive the first doses of the vaccine in the coming days. But “until a very high proportion of the population has been vaccinated, strong social distancing measures are needed to control this more transmissible variant of COVID-19,” stressed Prof Axel Gandy of Imperial College London. “Everybody that can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.”

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