COVID-19 vaccine shipments arrive across EU before rollout
Most countries are limited to 10,000 doses with mass vaccination programs expected to begin in January.
The first shipments of coronavirus vaccines have arrived across the European Union as authorities prepared to administer the first shots to the most vulnerable people in a co-ordinated effort on Dec. 27.
The vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer arrived by truck in warehouses across the continent on Dec. 25 and early Dec. 26 after being sent from a manufacturing centre in Belgium before Christmas.
The rollout marks a moment of hope for a region that includes some of the world’s earliest and worst-hit virus hot spots, including Italy and Spain, and others, like the Czech Republic, that were spared the worst early on only to see their health care systems near their breaking points in the fall.
Altogether, the 27 EU member states have seen at least 16 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 336,000 deaths.
The rollout is the result of co-ordination on the part of all 27 member states, helping the bloc to also project a sense of unity in a lifesaving mission of logistical complexity after difficulties in negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain.
The first doses, however, are limited to nearly 10,000 doses in most countries, with the mass vaccination programs expected to begin only in January.
Each country is deciding on its own who will get the first shots — but they are all making the most vulnerable first in line.
French authorities announced this week that will prioritize the elderly, based on the high impact on older populations in previous virus surges in France. The French medical safety agency will monitor for eventual problems.
Germany, where the pandemic has cost more than 30,000 lives, will begin with those over 80 and people who take care of vulnerable groups.