EU launches vaccine deployment, historic day in the fight against viruses

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Medical workers, nursing home residents and politicians are expected to be vaccinated against the coronavirus across the European Union on Sunday, as part of an effort by the 27 countries in the bloc to deploy vaccines in a coordinated and equitable manner.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has released a video celebrating the vaccine rollout, calling it a “moving moment of unity” in the battle to protect nearly 450 million people in the Union from the worst public health crisis in a century.

It turned out that some EU immunizations started a day earlier in Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. The operator of a German retirement home where dozens of people were vaccinated on Saturday, including a 101-year-old woman, said: “Every day that we wait is one too many.”

The deployment marks a moment of hope for a region that includes some of the oldest and most affected viral hotspots in the world – Italy and Spain – and others like the Czech Republic, which have been spared more early in the year to see their health systems. near collapse in the fall. It should also alleviate the frustrations that were mounting, especially in Germany, as Britain, Canada and the United States had started their vaccination programs with the same vaccine weeks earlier.

In total, the 27 EU countries have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths – a huge number that experts still agree to underestimate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and limited testing.

The first shipments of the vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US manufacturer Pfizer were limited to just under 10,000 doses to most EU countries, and its mass vaccination programs are only expected to start January.

Each country decides for itself who will get the first pictures. Spain, France and Germany, among others, are committed to prioritizing the elderly and residents in retirement homes.

In Italy, which has the worst viral toll in Europe with more than 71,000 dead, a nurse at Spallanzani Hospital in Rome, the capital’s main infectious disease facility, will be the first in the country to receive the vaccine, followed by other health workers.

Poland is also prioritizing doctors, nurses and others on the front lines of the fight against the virus. The central European nation was largely untouched by the outbreak that hit Western Europe hard in the spring, but was hit with high daily infections and deaths this fall.

EU leaders are counting on the vaccine rollout to help the bloc project a sense of unity in a complex rescue mission after facing a year of struggles to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal with the Great Britain. Brittany.

“Here is the good news for Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. “This vaccine is the decisive key to ending this pandemic … it is the key to regaining our lives.”

Among the politicians planning to be vaccinated on Sunday, to promote wider acceptance of vaccinations, are Slovak President Zuzana Caputova and Bulgarian Health Minister Kostadin Angelov.

Meanwhile, the first cases of a new variant of the virus that has spread rapidly around London and southern England have now been detected in France and Spain. The new variant, which UK officials say is much easier to transmit, has caused European countries, the US and China to impose new travel restrictions on people coming from Britain.

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but said more studies are needed to be completely certain.

The European Medicines Agency will consider on January 6 approving a second vaccine against the coronavirus, this one from Moderna, which has already been approved for use in the United States.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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