European medicines regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine - GulfToday

European medicines regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine


A frontline medical worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at the Virginia Hospital Centre. AFP

Europe's medicines regulator on Monday approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by US company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech , putting Europe on course to start inoculations within a week.

The European Medicines Agency said the "historic" step paved the way for vaccinations to finally start within days across the 27-nation EU where cases of the disease are surging.

European Union countries including Germany, France, Austria and Italy have said they plan to start vaccinations from Dec.27 as Europe tries to catch up with the United States and Britain, where inoculations began earlier this month.

Having gained the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the final step is approval by the European Commission, which is expected in the coming days.

The Commission typically follows the EMA's advice. Preparations for the vaccine rollout come as the identification of a highly infectious new strain of the coronavirus in Britain caused chaos across the region, with countries shutting off travel ties with the UK and disrupting trade ahead of the Christmas holiday.

The pandemic has killed about 470,000 Europeans and is picking up pace in the winter months, crushing economies in the process.

Many governments have imposed tighter restrictions on households to try to curb a second wave of infections and avoid overwhelming healthcare systems. Commission head Ursula von der Leyen had already targeted the start of vaccinations over the Dec.27-29 period.

Student medics, retired doctors, pharmacists and soldiers are being drafted into a European vaccination campaign of unprecedented scale.

A phased-in approach means frontline healthcare workers and elderly residents of care homes are being prioritised, with most national schemes not reaching the general public until the end of the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest.

The goal of the 27-member EU is to reach coverage of 70% of its 450 million people.


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