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23rd Jan 2022

EU could green-light two corona vaccines in December

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said expectations on lifting Covid-19 "will have to be managed" (Photo: European Commission)

The EU could get the first preliminary approvals for two Covid-19 vaccines, developed by pharmaceutical firms Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, in the second half of December, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday (19 November).

Von der Leyen said this would be a "very first step" and added that, initially, only a small amount of doses would be available, while large-scale distribution of vaccines would begin next year.

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"If all proceeds with no problems, the EMA [the European Medicines Agency] tells us that the conditional marketing authorisation for BioNTech and Moderna could happen as early as the second half of December 2020," she told reporters after a videoconference of EU leaders.

Promising results from trials of the US pharma company Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech's collaboration and US's Moderna in the last two weeks have raised expectations that Covid-19 can be contained.

The EU commission has already concluded five contracts for different vaccines and is in talks with Modena.

Von der Leyen said the EMA was also in "daily calls" with its US counterpart, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to synchronise assessments.

The commission has asked all member states to provide their plans to vaccinate the population against the coronavirus.

EU leaders discussed how to overcome the logistical challenges with regards to rolling out the vaccines, once they become available, and they agreed to coordinate public information campaigns on vaccines.

"The number of people distrustful of vaccines is growing and we must clearly communicate their value," European Council president Charles Michel said.

"We are working on a vaccination campaign to support member states in the communication on the importance of vaccines. It is self-protection and it is solidarity," von der Leyen added.

Leaders also discussed the need to avoid a premature end to lockdown measures to avoid further waves of rising coronavirus infections.

"We have all learned from the experience in the summer that the exit from a wave is very difficult and that lifting measures too hastily has had a very bad impact on the epidemiological situation in summer and fall," von der Leyen said.

"This time, expectations will have to be managed," she added.

The commission will propose a gradual and coordinated approached to lifting containment measures to avoid the risk of another wave.

Michel warned that during the winter holidays, safety will have to come first.

"We all want to celebrate the end-of-the-year holidays, but safely. Let's ring in the new year safely," he told reporters.

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