The European Commission, on Monday (21 December), authorised the use of the Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, paving the way for member states to start vaccination programmes within the next few days.
“We have granted conditional market authorisation to the vaccine produced by BioNTech and Pfizer,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement, just hours after the European Medicine Agency (EMA) issued a positive scientific assessment, recommending conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccine known by the brand-name Comirnaty.
The approval paves way for the begin of mass vaccination of some 450 million people across the EU.
The EMA recommendation for the use of the vaccine applies to those 16 years of age and older, agency head Emer Cooke said. “It is a significant step forward in our fight against this pandemic, which is causing suffering and hardship for so many people, not just in Europe but all over the world,” she added. “This is really a historic scientific achievement. Within less than a year, a vaccine will have been developed and authorized against a new disease.”
Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has welcomed the approval of Comirnaty, proven to be 95% effective against COVID-19 in global trials, describing it as “a milestone in fighting the pandemic.”
He said on Twitter that by the end of this year, a total of more than 1.3 million vaccine doses should have been delivered to Germany’s 16 states.
Vaccination is expected to start on 27 December with people over 80 years of age, nursing home staff and residents, as well as health care workers at very high risk of infection being the first to be vaccinated.
The UK and US had earlier approved the vaccine and begun their vaccination drives in the past weeks. The US has also now approved a second vaccine, manufactured by the pharmaceutical firm Moderna. EMA will make announce its authorisation decision on the vaccine on 6 June.