Countries in the European Union could be rolling out coronavirus jabs within a week after the EU regulator approved the use of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) today recommended the EU should authorise the vaccine after finding it safe and effective. A decision from the European Commission is expected later today.
The approval comes as a new strain of coronavirus in the UK has caused EU countries to ban travel from Britain. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday said the new strain could be up to 70 per cent more contagious than the old one.
However, officials from the EMA told a news conference today that it was very likely the vaccine would work against the new variant of the coronavirus.
With the vaccine receiving the green light from medical regulators, the attention now turns to the European Commission.
“Now we will act fast. I expect a European Commission decision by this evening,” Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
Countries such as Germany, France, Austria and Italy have said they will start giving out the jab from 27 December.
EMA finds vaccine safe and effective
The UK was the first country to approve the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine – which was developed by the US and German pharmaceutical companies – and started giving jabs in early December. The US followed suit and is also rolling out vaccines.
In its statement announcing its decision, the EMA said it found the vaccine to be 95 per cent effective.
“Today’s positive news is an important step forward in our fight against this pandemic, which has caused suffering and hardship for so many,” said Emer Cooke, executive director of EMA.
“We have achieved this milestone thanks to the dedication of scientists, doctors, developers and trial volunteers as well as many experts from all EU member states.
“Our thorough evaluation means that we can confidently assure EU citizens of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine and that it meets necessary quality standards.”