European Union countries began receiving their first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine at the end of this week ahead of a massive launch planned for Sunday.
Sunday efforts will be made to vaccinate people at risk and priority medical workers in some countries that have suffered from the brunt of the first wave of the virus this spring, including the Czech Republic, Italy and Spain. The Associated Press reported.
“It’s here, the good news for Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. “At the moment, trucks are traveling all over Europe, through Germany and its regions, to deliver the first vaccine. More deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow. This vaccine is the critical key to ending this epidemic.”
The Associated Press reported that the 27 member states of the European bloc have collectively seen 16 million cases of coronavirus since the start of the epidemic, with 336,000 deaths.
Doses of around 10,000 per country began shipping from a Pfizer-BioNTech manufacturing center in Belgium before Christmas.
While the first shipments are relatively small in volume, the mass vaccination program is slated to start in January and will focus on immunizing more people across the European Union.
The European Union approved the purchase Up to 300 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech And millions more from other manufacturers like Moderna.
Each country is responsible for its own rules regarding vaccine deployment, although states unanimously prioritize the elderly population and medical professionals who are constantly at risk of exposure to and contracting the virus.
In Germany, people over the age of 80 who care for vulnerable groups will receive their first vaccinations.
The Associated Press reports that in countries such as Poland and Bulgaria, members of the public have expressed some concerns about getting vaccinated due to public distrust of the authorities.
Polish officials have appealed to residents that receiving the vaccine will be their national duty and help achieve herd immunity, while Croatian officials said they are planning to launch a strong campaign to prove the benefits of vaccinations against the Coronavirus.
As the vaccine begins rolling out across the European Union, officials have warned of a new strain of the virus said to be 56 percent more contagious. The strain spread quickly in the United Kingdom and was discovered in several other countries.