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Photo: Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will meet by Dec. 29 "at the latest" to decide if the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is safe and effective enough to be approved, the agency announced on Tuesday.

The state of play: Pfizer and BioNTech have already submitted their vaccine for emergency authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as in the U.K., Australia, Canada and Japan, per AP.

  • The EMA also said on Tuesday that it could decide to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. as early as Jan. 12 if the data the company submitted proved the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.
  • EMA said it had already begun a "rolling review" on the Moderna vaccine based on laboratory data previously submitted, but will now start reviewing data on how well the vaccine triggers an immune response against the virus.

The big picture: The EMA's announcement comes almost two weeks after Pfizer said that its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective and has no serious side effects. Moderna said it filed for an emergency use authorization with the FDA and the EMA this week, and that its vaccine is 94.1% effective.

What to watch: Initial vaccine distribution could begin around the world before the end of the year.

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 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated."
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated — Annual vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate — Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance — Arizona governor sues Biden administration over funds tied to mandates.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker