In what some have called “V-Day,” Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain have begun vaccinations, beginning with health workers and those most at risk of contracting the disease.
A vaccination campaign coordinated on an unprecedented scale in the European UnionThe home of nearly 450 million people is a critical step in curbing the global pandemic.
In Italy, the first doses of the vaccine developed by the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech were given to five health workers at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, which has been at the forefront of fighting Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
“Today is finally a good day,” said Caesar, the virus in the country, Domenico Arcuri, told a news conference. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
But he warned that people should “continue to exercise caution, caution and responsibility,” because Italy, which has recorded the largest number of deaths in Europe with 72,000 cases, still has a long way to go.
The country’s Ministry of Health said that a total of 9,750 doses of the vaccine, which removed regulatory hurdles in Europe earlier this week, have arrived in the country so far for distribution to its 20 regions.
In all, the 27 European Union countries have recorded 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 their own decision about who gets the first shots, and most pledge to put seniors and residents in nursing homes first.
France also started giving the vaccine on Sunday. The country’s Ministry of Health said it has ordered approximately 68 million doses of the dual-dose vaccine Pfizer-Bio-Tech from the European Union, which will be delivered between now and July.
The day before the vaccination campaign officially began in Germany, a small number of people were vaccinated in a nursing home at a nursing home in Halberstadt on Saturday.
Edith Quesala, 101 years old, received the first dose.
The federal government plans to distribute more than 1.3 million vaccine doses to local health authorities by the end of this year, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier this week.
Hungary and Slovakia began vaccinating people on Saturday, one day before the start of general European operation, while in the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrzej Babis became the first person in the country to get the vaccine on Sunday.
The first cases of a new virus variant that the British authorities said could be 70 percent more transmissible After being discovered in the United Kingdom, it has been spotted in France, Ireland and Sweden over the weekend.
Concerns about the new strain led China’s aviation regulator to suspend flights to and from the UK on Sunday until at least January 10, and more than 40 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Japan imposed restrictions on travel from Britain.
BioNTech said it is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the new variant in the UK, but added that more studies are needed to be absolutely sure.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nancy Ing, Anne Katherine Bowlers, and Claudio Lavanga Contributed.