Vaccination starts for 450 million in Europe as fears arise over new coronavirus variant

Mass vaccination programs began in Europe on Sunday after several countries reported cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus.

On what some have called ‘V-Day’, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain have started vaccinations, starting with health workers and those at greatest risk of contracting the disease.

The coordinated vaccination campaign of unprecedented magnitude in the European Union, with nearly 450 million people, is an important step in curbing the global pandemic.

In Italy, the first doses of vaccine developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech were administered to five health workers at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Rome, which has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 since its inception. wash. of the pandemic.

“Today is finally a good day,” the country’s virus Tsar Domenico Arcuri told a news conference. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

But he warned that people ‘must remain careful, cautious and responsible’, as Italy, which recorded the highest death toll in Europe at 72,000, still has a long way to go.

A total of 9750 doses of the vaccine, which removed regulatory barriers in Europe earlier this week, have so far arrived in the country to be distributed across its 20 regions, the country’s health ministry said.

A total of 27 EU countries have reported nearly 15 million coronavirus infections and more than 353,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.7 million have died worldwide.

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Each EU country will make its own decision on who gets it first, with the most promise of putting the elderly and residents in nursing homes first.

France also began administering the vaccine on Sunday. The country’s health ministry said it had ordered nearly 68 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the EU, which should be delivered between now and July.

A day before the vaccination campaign officially began in Germany, a small number of people were vaccinated in a nursing home in a nursing home in the city of Halberstadt on Saturday.

Edith Kwoizalla, 101 years old, received the first dose.

The federal government plans to distribute more than 1.3 million doses of vaccine to local health authorities by the end of this year, German Health Minister Jens Spahn tweeted earlier this week.

Hungary and Slovakia began vaccinating people on Saturday, a day before the general European deployment, while Prime Minister Andrej Babis in the Czech Republic is the first person in the country to receive the vaccine on Sunday.

On Sunday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis will receive the first injection nationwide with a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Military University Hospital in Prague, Czech Republic.Gabriel Kuchta / Getty Images

The first cases of a new virus variant that, according to the British authorities, could be 70 per cent more transmissible after being discovered in the UK, were detected in France, Ireland and Sweden this past weekend.

Fears of the new tension have suspended China’s aviation regulator Sunday to January 10 flights to and from the UK to more than January 10. More than 40 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Japan, have also placed restrictions on travel from Britain.

BioNTech said it was confident the coronavirus vaccine would work against the new UK variant, but added that further studies were needed to be completely sure.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nancy Ing, Ann-Kathrin Pohlers and Claudio Lavanga contributed.