EuropeThe European Drug Administration (EMA) on December 21 issued an emergency license for the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech.
The decision comes weeks after the UK approved the vaccine and began rolling out vaccinations. The European Commission is expected to stamp the decision later in the day, paving the way for efforts to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to all 27 member countries.
“This is truly an historic scientific achievement, a major step forward in our fight against the pandemic,” said Emer Cooke, head of the EMA.
On the official Twitter, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the approval of the EMA is “a decisive milestone in the effort to provide safe vaccines to people across the continent”.
“Now we will act quickly,” she said. The European Union’s executive board is expected to take two to three days to approve the EMA’s decision.
Officials in Germany and some other countries said the vaccination could begin on December 27.
“Today is a special day for me and BioNTech,” said Ugur Sahin, the company’s chief executive and co-founder. “We are ready to begin delivering the first dose of vaccine across Europe as soon as the green light is turned on.”
Last week, European regulators came under heavy pressure from many member states. They called for the vaccine to be licensed as quickly as possible amid the worsening second Covid-19 outbreak.
Initially, the EMA designated December 29 as the date of vaccine evaluation, but the agency moved the meeting to December 21, after many countries called for a quick discussion.
“Our goal is to get vaccinations before Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said in mid-December. “We want to start vaccination this year.”
Like Germany, France will start vaccinating the elderly in nursing homes.
The Amsterdam-based EMA, which is responsible for approving all new drugs and vaccines across all 27 member countries, has roughly the same authority as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). T
Pfizer vaccines have since received emergency approval in the UK, Canada, Singapore and the US. On December 19, Switzerland also became the first European country to license the vaccine under the usual procedures.
In an official statement last week, the EMA emphasized that the vaccine should only be approved after undergoing evaluation, showing the overall benefits outweigh the risks. Scientists are waiting for more data to see how long the vaccine-induced side effects and immunity are monitored.
Thuc Linh (According to the AP)