BERLIN (Reuters) – EU member states will start receiving vaccines against COVID-19 in 10 days, Germany says, as Europe tries to catch up with Britain and the United States after some have criticized it as a slow EU approval process for the jabs.
“In Germany, if the agreement is reached, we will start on December 27. The other EU countries want to be able to start and they want to start from 27 December, ”said Health Minister Jens Spahn ahead of an online meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and officials from vaccine manufacturer BioNTech.
As a member of the EU, it is largely Germany’s duty to wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve the vaccine. The EMA is expected to issue on December 21st.
An EU chief executive said on Wednesday that the bloc could issue its final approval for the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, on 23 December.
That will be weeks after Britain, which left the EU early this year, approved the painting on December 3 for emergency use, followed by Canada on December 9 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (FDA) on December 11th.
In Britain, around 140,000 people have already got the jobs, BioNTech Chief Medical Officer Oezlem Tuereci said at an online event on Thursday.
According to Spahn, the vaccine should be available to all 27 EU member states at the same time, regardless of their financial strength, thanks to talks led by the European Commission said they were an “important indicator of European closeness”.
Merkel said Germany was looking forward to starting life-saving vaccines, a day after the country reported 952 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest daily number yet.
“If we look at the number of people dying from coronavirus now, we know how many people can be saved by this (vaccine),” she said.
Tuereci told BioNTech that the marathon was not over yet for the vaccine manufacturer.
“Our team here at BioNTech have worked through evenings and weekends, canceled holidays. They will continue over Christmas to ensure that delivery can take place quickly, ”she said.
Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Thomas Escritt; Written by Maria Sheahan; Edited by Mark Heinrich