Europeans will begin receiving coronavirus vaccines before the new year, after the regional drug regulator accelerated its approval process following the launch of immunization campaigns in the United States and Britain. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said an expert group will meet on Monday 21 December to evaluate the vaccine made by US company Pfizer and German partner BioNTech. He had previously said the meeting could be until December 29th.
Although EMA’s mandate is to issue recommendations on new medical treatments, the European Commission has the final say on approval and typically follows EMA’s advice. EMA said its expert meeting was brought forward after companies provided more data, as requested, and the European Commission will speed up its procedures for ruling on approval “within days”.
Germany is expected to start administering coronavirus injections 24 to 72 hours after the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine gains EU approval and could start as soon as Christmas, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Tuesday. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed these sentiments by saying on Twitter “(It is) likely that the first Europeans will be vaccinated before the end of 2020”.
Germany, France, Italy and five other European states will coordinate the start of their vaccination campaigns, the countries’ health ministers said in a joint statement on Tuesday. The countries will promote “coordination of the launch of vaccination campaigns” and will quickly share information on how things are progressing, reads the statement released by Italy.
The declaration was also signed by health ministers from Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, the EU’s neighbor.
Rising infection rates and tougher blockade measures in many European nations have added to the pressure on the EMA to act as quickly as possible and cast a shadow over the Christmas celebrations. EMA added that any approval would come with a safety monitoring plan, manufacturing controls, an investigation plan for use in children, and binding obligations on the part of manufacturers to provide more data on efficacy and safety.
Britain was the first to approve the shot for emergency use on December 3, followed by Canada on December 9 and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 11. the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine by December 29 and on another candidate developed by Moderna by January 12.
Both the US biotech company Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have reported vaccine efficacy in studies of well over 90%, an unexpectedly high rate. All side effects subsided quickly and weren’t serious, they said. BioNTech reiterated that it was on track to deliver 50 million doses globally this year, for the 25 million two-dose cycles needed for immunization.