Major EU countries to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine release | News | DW | 15.12.2020

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Major EU countries to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine release

Germany, France, Italy and five other EU countries have agreed to coordinate vaccination campaigns. Health ministers say they will also share data and fight online disinformation.

European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Europe's drug authority EMA is coming under increasing pressure to approve the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Health ministers from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland announced on Tuesday that they would be coordinating efforts tied to the approval and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We agree to coordinate the launch of the vaccination campaign and to rapidly share information between competent national authorities," the ministers said in a statement released by the Italian Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

European health officials say the effort is designed to ensure "clear and transparent communication," as well as providing guidelines for cross-border workers. Politicians say they will focus on countering disinformation about vaccines and will also make clear guidelines available to all.

Slow process to be sped up

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which was scheduled to consider authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech-Pfizer on December 29, has now said that it will meet on December 21 instead. Pressure has been building on the EU authority to approve a vaccine that has already gone into use in the UK, Canada and the US

The agency did not, however, indicate when approval might come.

"The rate of progress is reliant on a robust and complete assessment of the quality, safety and efficacy and is determined by availability of additional information from the company to respond to questions raised during the evaluation," read an EMA statement.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen applauded the EMA decision, tweeting: "Likely the first Europeans will be vaccinated before end 2020," a comment that left many on her Twitter feed asking whether the British were no longer considered Europeans.   

EU countries have secured doses of vaccine but the bloc has opted for a slower, more thorough approval process rather than the abbreviated testing the vaccine was put through elsewhere. EMA says it will also review other vaccine candidates in January. 

'Going to do this on a European level'

On Tuesday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn told journalists at Berlin's Federal Press Conference: "We have always said: We're going to do this on a European level, not on a national level. We secured and ordered vaccines together, we invested in research and production together — and we will complete authorization together." 

Spahn said that Germany would begin administering the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine within 24 to 72 hours of EMA approval.

js/dj (dpa, Reuters) 

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