Vaccinations against COVID-19 will begin across the EU starting on December 27 — shortly after the jab is expected to be approved.
In just 10 days, the first people across the European Union will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.
"It's Europe's moment. On 27, 28 and 29 December vaccination will start across the EU," von der Leyen tweeted.
The vaccine rollout is conditional on the European Medicine's Agency (EMA) approving the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.
The regulatory agency will meet to make a decision on the vaccine on December 21 and is expected to approve it. Pressure has been mounting on EMA to speed up its review of the vaccine, prompting the agency to move up its hearing on the jab from December 29 to the 21st.
In an effort to ensure fair access across the bloc, the EU is carrying out a coordinated vaccination program.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, has already signed contracts with several other suppliers of potential coronavirus vaccines in an effort to secure enough doses for all adult EU citizens.
Italy said it would start vaccinating frontline health workers on December 27, while Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also said vaccinations would start on that date.
Dutch health authorities, however, said they may not be among the first EU countries to start administering the vaccine, Reuters news agency reported.
The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine presents a unique logistical challenge as it must be stored at around -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) to keep the doses viable. Over short distances, the vaccine can be transported for short periods at 2 - 8 degrees Celsius.
Vaccinations are already underway in the United Kingdom and the United States after regulators pushed through emergency approval.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the vaccine rollout would take place the same day EMA meets to approve the vaccine. The EMA is expected to meet on December 21, not December 27. The error has been corrected.
rs/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)