FRANKFURT, Germany (Associated Press) – Germany, Hungary and Slovakia began giving their first coronavirus vaccines on Saturday, just hours after receiving their first shipments, upsetting the European Union’s plans to launch a coordinator on Sunday across the 27 bloc countries.
“Every day we wait for it is a very long day,” said Tobias Krueger, director of the nursing home where vaccinations began in Halberstadt, in the northeastern region of Saxony-Anhalt.
And the German news agency (dpa) reported that the first person in the house to be vaccinated with the Pfizer Bio-Tech vaccine was Edith Quesala 101 years
Kruger said 40 of the 59 residents of the house wanted to be vaccinated with 10 of the roughly 40 workers. He was among those immunized but added: “I also understand the concerns.”
In Hungary, healthcare workers were vaccinated at the Southern Pest Central Hospital in Budapest, while in Slovakia, the first person to receive the vaccination injection was Vladimir Korkmiri, a 60-year-old senior expert in infectious diseases. He was vaccinated with doctors at the University Hospital in Nitra, in what Health Minister Marek Karraji described as a “historic moment”.
The first shipments of the vaccine arrived at hospitals across the European Union in extremely cold containers late Friday and early Saturday after being dispatched from a manufacturing center in Belgium before Christmas.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen released a video clip to celebrate the launch of the vaccine in the bloc of nearly 450 million people, describing it as a “moving moment of unity”.
“Today, we are starting to turn the page in a difficult year. The vaccine for COVID-19 has been delivered to all European Union countries. And she said that vaccination will start tomorrow across the European Union.”
The launch marks a moment of hope for a region that includes some of the world’s oldest and most dangerous areas affected by the virus – Italy and Spain – and others like the Czech Republic, which were averted early only to see health care systems near their breaking point in the fall.
Overall, European Union countries have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths – huge numbers that experts agree still underestimate the true losses of the epidemic due to missed cases and limited testing.
Nevertheless, the launch of the vaccine is helping the bloc feel lonely in a complex mission to save lives after it faced a year of difficulties negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal. It also brings relief to EU politicians who were frustrated after Britain, Canada and the United States began vaccination programs earlier this month with the same upgraded German shot.
“It’s here, the good news for Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference on Saturday. “This vaccine is the critical key to ending this epidemic … It is the key to getting our lives back.”
The first shipments were limited to just under 10,000 doses in most countries, and mass vaccination programs in the European Union are expected to start only in January. Each country decides on their own who gets the first shots – but they all put the most vulnerable people first.
In Hungary, the first shipment of 9,750 doses – sufficient to vaccinate 4,875 people, given that two doses are needed per person – arrived by truck early Saturday and was transported to the South Pest Central Hospital in Budapest. The government said four other hospitals, two in Budapest and two others in the eastern cities of Debrecen and Nyiregyhaza, will receive the vaccines from the initial shipment.
The French authorities said they will prioritize the elderly and the French Medical Safety Agency will monitor the launch of the vaccine for any potential problems. Germany, where the epidemic has claimed more than 30,000 lives, begins with those over 80 and the people who care for vulnerable groups.
The Spanish authorities said that the first batch of the vaccine arrived in the central city of Guadalajara, where the first vaccinations will be given on Sunday morning in a nursing home.
In Italy, which has recorded the worst virus toll in Europe with more than 71,000 dead, a nurse at Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital, the main infectious disease facility in the capital, will be the first in the country to receive the vaccine, followed by other healthcare workers.
In Poland, the first two people to be vaccinated on Sunday will be a nurse and a doctor at the Interior Ministry Hospital in Warsaw, followed by medical staff in dozens of other hospitals. Polish Prime Minister Matthews Murawiecki said it is a patriotic duty of Poles to get vaccinated – a message to a society where there is a high degree of hesitation in vaccination due to the authorities’ mistrust.
In Bulgaria, where concerns about vaccines are growing, Health Minister Kustdin Angelov will be the first person to receive the vaccine, who has promised to launch a vigorous campaign to promote the benefits of the vaccines.
In Croatia, a nursing home residing in Zagreb, the capital, will be the first to receive the vaccine Sunday morning, according to state-run HRT TV. The authorities also planned to involve celebrities and other public figures in a pro-vaccination campaign.
“We have been waiting for this for a year now,” Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cato said on Saturday after the first vaccines arrived at an army-run storage facility.
Vaccines began when the first cases of a new virus variant spreading in the United Kingdom were discovered in France and Spain. The new alternative, which British authorities said was easy to transfer, prompted European countries, the United States and China to impose new restrictions on people traveling from Britain.
The French Health Agency said a French man living in England arrived in France on December 19 and tested positive for the new variant on Friday. He has shown no symptoms and is isolated at his home in the city center of Tours.
Madrid health authorities have confirmed the presence of the British surrogate in four people, all of whom are in good health. Regional Health Director Enrique Ruiz Escudero said the new strain arrived when an infected person flew to Madrid airport.
The German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident His coronavirus vaccine is working against the new variant in the UK, but he said more studies are needed to be absolutely sure.
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