Germany starts coronavirus vaccines a day early

Edith Kwoizalla, 101, receives the first vaccine against the new coronavirus COVID-19 from Pfizer and BioNTech from Dr. Bernhard Ellendt (R) at a care center for the elderly in Halberstadt (Seniorenzentrum Krueger), north central Germany, the December 26, 2020 - The European Union started launching a vaccine, even as the bloc countries were forced to re-lock themselves by a new strain of the virus, believed to be more infectious, which continues to spread from Britain .  The pandemic has claimed more than 1.7 million lives and is still rampant in much of the world, but the recent launch of inoculation campaigns has raised hopes that 2021 may bring a respite.  (Photo by Matthias Bein / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

A 101-year-old woman in a nursing home became the first person in Germany to be inoculated against the coronavirus on Saturday, a day before the official vaccination campaign was scheduled to start in both Germany and the EU.

Edith Kwoizalla was one of about 40 residents and 10 employees at a nursing home in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt who received an injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, home manager Tobias Krueger told AFP.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became the first to get the go-ahead for use in the West when Britain gave its approval on December 2.

As other nations from the United States to Saudi Arabia and Singapore followed suit, Germany impatiently lobbied the EU drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, to advance its December 29 decision.

The EMA finally gave the green light more than a week in advance, on December 21.

That same night, the European Commission declared that the entire block would start the inoculation operation as of Sunday, December 27.

“For us, every day counts,” Immo Kramer, an official at the region’s vaccination center, told MDR public television.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of doses of vaccines were delivered to regional health authorities, who then distributed them to local vaccination centers.

Nursing home residents, people 80 and older, and care staff will be the first to take the hit.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn called it a “day of hope.”

“The vaccine is an essential key to beating the pandemic,” he told a news conference.

“It is the key that will allow us to recover our lives,” but warned that vaccinating everyone would be a “long-term” effort.

Germany, which appeared to be doing relatively well in the first wave of coronavirus in the spring, has been hit hard by a second wave.

According to the latest data compiled by the Robert Koch Institute, a total of 14,455 new infections have been reported in the last 24 hours and 240 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths so far to 29,422.

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