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Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

The European Commission on Monday granted market authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, hours after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended approval.

Why it matters: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that vaccinations will begin in the EU's 27 countries on Dec. 27, 28 and 29. The vaccine has been found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects.

Between the lines: The EMA said there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine will not be effective against the new coronavirus variant found in the U.K..

The big picture: The U.S. and U.K. have both already begun to roll out the vaccine, after it was approved by regulators in the respective countries earlier this month.

  • Those authorizations put pressure on the EU to move faster, after the bureaucratic bloc was criticized for acting slowly as thousands of people died of COVID-19 each day.
  • The EMA subsequently pushed its date forward for making the decision, moving it to Monday from Dec. 29.
  • The agency will make a decision on Moderna's vaccine on Jan. 6.

This story has been updated with the European Commission's market authorization.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 28, 2021 - Health

South Carolina reports first-known U.S. cases of South African COVID variant

A health care worker giving a patient a dose of coronavirus vaccine in an assisted living home in Sumter, S.C., on Jan. 26. Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Carolina health officials have reported the first-known U.S. COVID-19 cases of a fast-spreading variant discovered in South Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday.

Why it matters: Though the CDC has "no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease," preliminary data indicates it may spread faster and more easily than other variants.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

The global line for coronavirus vaccines stretches back to 2023

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There’s a wild scramble at the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines, with the EU discussing export bans and legal action to ensure its supply speeds up in the coming months.

The flipside: The back of the line likely stretches to 2023 and beyond. Almost no low-income countries have managed to begin distribution in earnest, and total vaccinations in all of continental sub-Saharan Africa currently number in the dozens.