The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is increasingly under pressure to expedite its evaluation of the new BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Union Commission, stated to European parliamentarians that 27 member states could begin vaccination programs on the same day, perhaps before Christmas.
She emphasized unity and hard work during her speech to the bloc’s lawmakers. Von der Leyen expressed confidence that the virus could be beaten, noting that the EMA has decided to expedite the hearing scheduled for December 29 until December 21.
The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine was the first of six to be reviewed, although all have been ordered for administration as soon as they are deemed safe. “The first vaccine will be authorized in a week, which will enable vaccinations to begin immediately,” she stated.
Von der Leyen also released a tweet: “This is a huge task. Let’s start this vaccination as a team, as All EU Countries, on the same day. As we have been united through this pandemic, we will resolve this together and united.”
Germany announced it would roll out the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus on December 27, the Berlin city government. The announcement comes after a meeting between Jens Spahn, Germany’s Health Minister, and health officials from the 16 federal states. It is unclear if this will be the same date as the other 27 member states. Berlin city government announced priority would be given to seniors in care homes.
However, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the country could begin vaccinations “in the last week of December” if “all conditions are met.”
The EU has the option of issuing emergency authorizations of vaccination but has resisted such moves until now, preferring instead to act as one — adhering to a somewhat lengthy, but also thorough, review period — to make sure that all EU member states are treated similarly.
Margaritis Schinas, the vice president of the European Commission, echoed von der Leyen’s optimism, saying, “If the vaccine is successful, it will make a great Christmas present for this year’s Christmas.”
The German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, urged caution: “The authorization processes should be carried out in such a way so that we do not succumb to political pressures.” Roth said that it is more important to get the vaccine rollout right than to be first.
As the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine is already being administered by the UK, Canada, and the US, the EU’s pressure has mounted.
Von der Leyen raised the issue of whether or not the potentially life-saving vaccine should be provided to low and developing countries and its access by a multilateral convention. “We have purchased more than enough doses for all of Europe, and we also intend to support our neighbors and partners around the world by use of COVAX so that no one is left behind,” she told parliamentarians.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the European Union, and France launched the COVAX initiative to provide all countries with safe and effective vaccines.