Britain's medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95 percent protection against the Coronavirus, is safe to be rolled out.
The first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week. The Pfizer/BioNTech jab is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.
“The emergency use authorisation in the UK will mark the first time that citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunised against COVID-19,” said Uğur Şahin, the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.
On Wednesday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said vaccination in his country could start by 5 January.
He said, “The vaccination strategy will become clear in the next few days. It is important that we get it right. There is no time to lose, but on 5 January we will be ready, just like other countries.”
“We have faith in the EMA’s approval process, which is based on the highest standards. This vaccine is first and foremost an international and European achievement. We are facing a global pandemic, there is no room for vaccine nationalism” Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, Renew Europe
It is thought that other EU countries will follow suit with the rollout of vaccines once the EU gives the green light.
The European Commission has signed contracts with six pharmaceutical companies for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
In a speech on Tuesday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do.”
She added, “the development of vaccines has been a remarkable team effort but to deliver them to everyone in the world we will need an even greater effort.”
She recently said that vaccination could start in Europe by the end of December.
“The vaccination strategy will become clear in the next few days. It is important that we get it right. There is no time to lose, but on 5 January we will be ready, just like other countries” Alexander De Croo, Belgian Prime Minister
On Wednesday, a Commission spokesman said people should still respect social distancing rules, adding, “A coordinated EU‑wide approach is key to provide clarity to people and avoid a resurgence of the virus linked to the end of year holidays.”
“Any relaxation of measures should take into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation and sufficient capacity for testing, contact tracing and treating patients.”
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said he would set a “national vaccination plan” on Thursday.
He also pointed out that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had earlier this week published its timeframe for approval of vaccines.
Meanwhile, the EMA has organised a public meeting to inform European citizens about the EU regulatory processes for the approval of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis, with devastating health, social and economic impact. Safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 are urgently needed to respond to this crisis and reduce its effects”
European Medicines Agency spokesman
The meeting on 11 December will also focus on the agency’s role in development, evaluation, approval and safety monitoring of the various vaccines currently awaiting approval.
Noel Wathion, EMA deputy executive director, and Emer Cooke, another executive director, are among the speakers.
Fergus Sweeney, head of clinical studies and manufacturing, will speak in a session on the “EU’s regulatory process for evaluation and approval of vaccines”, while Peter Arlett, head of data analytics and methods, will address the issue of safety monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines.
An EMA spokesman told this site that the agency “is supporting the development of COVID-19 vaccines and has taken steps to speed up the evaluation processes for these vaccines.”
“The agency and its partners are doing so while ensuring that the same high regulatory standards for quality, safety and efficacy are being applied to COVID-19 vaccines.”
He said, “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis, with devastating health, social and economic impact. Safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 are urgently needed to respond to this crisis and reduce its effects.”
The agency says the meeting will “give the opportunity to the public and stakeholder groups to speak and share their needs, expectations and any concerns in the decision-making process.”
The meeting will be broadcast live and will be open to all citizens. During the meeting there will be a mailbox open via EMA’s website for the public to make comments.
On Wednesday, Renew Europe member Véronique Trillet-Lenoir told this site, “We have faith in the EMA’s approval process, which is based on the highest standards. This vaccine is first and foremost an international and European achievement. We are facing a global pandemic, there is no room for vaccine nationalism.”