EU launches coronavirus vaccine drive to inoculate 450M people
The European Union began on Sunday a coordinated rollout of coronavirus vaccinations across its 27 member states in a drive to inoculate some 450 million people.
Why it matters: Several European countries have tightened restrictions as cases, deaths and hospitalizations surge. EU countries have recorded at least 16 million COVID-19 cases and 336,000 deaths since the pandemic began, per AP.
- The vaccinations come in a week that saw the first cases of a new COVID-19 variant, first reported in the United Kingdom, detected in France, Spain and Sweden, as well as Japan and Canada.
The big picture: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments arrived to EU countries on Saturday. Most countries received just under 10,000 doses in their first shipments, according to AP.
- Germany, Hungary and Slovakia gave their first coronavirus vaccine shots on Saturday, one ahead of the coordinated launch, AP notes.
- Germany gave the first shots to a small number of people at a home for the elderly on Saturday, per Reuters.
- Hungary administered its first vaccine doses to frontline health workers in Budapest.
- Slovakia also gave some its first shots to healthcare workers, according to AP.
What they're saying: "Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The COVID-19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video she tweeted Saturday.
- "The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic," she added.
- German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference Saturday that the "vaccine is the decisive key to end this pandemic ... it is the key to getting our lives back," per AP.
Go deeper... The challenge of 2021: Vaccinating the world
Editor's note: This article has been updated with news of the coordinated rollout.