Italy’s special commissioner for the pandemic has said that the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 will begin in all 27 European Union countries on the same “symbolic” day, to be followed with individual countries’ rollouts of larger inoculation programs.
“The idea that one European country could begin before another is far” from what will occur, the official, Domenico Arcuri, told reporters on Sunday. “The campaign will begin in all countries on a symbolic day before the start of the actual campaign of mass vaccinations,” he added.
When this day would be, and how many would be vaccinated, was not elaborated on.
Italy will begin its first phase of vaccinations, targeting 1.8 million health care personnel and residents and staff of nursing homes, in mid-January, Arcuri said. The country has over 1.8 million cases of COVID-19 after being one of the first countries to be hard hit by the virus, and suffering a deadly second wave of infections in October.
In an interview with France Inter radio, European Council President Charles Michel said the first COVID-19 vaccines could be approved in the EU within the “coming weeks” and “maybe even by before the end of the year”.
He said that the UK used a loophole to clear Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the European Medicines Agency, noting that the EU has decided “not to play” with approval and to follow its regulatory process.
The EU has already finalised a deal to buy up to 300 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (BioNTech is a German firm). Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands have also had an existing pact to buy 300 million shots of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, having already given a down payment of $396 million.
Countries like the UK, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Germany have already signed pre-purchase agreements for vaccines sufficient to cover more than 100 per cent of their populations, according to a Bloomberg report.
With inputs from AP