FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – Germany and Hungary began delivering their first corona virus vaccine shots on Saturday just hours after receiving their first shipments.
“Every day we wait is a day too long,” said Tobias Krueger, a nursing home operator, who launched the vaccine on Saturday in Halberstadt in the northeastern German region of Saxony-Anhalt.
Edith Guizalla, 101, was the first person to be vaccinated with the Pfizer-Bioentech vaccine, according to the DPA news agency.
Kruger said 40 of the 59 residents of the home would like to be vaccinated with 10 of the 40 workers. He was one of those who encouraged immunization, but said “I understand the concerns as well.”
In Hungary, health workers were vaccinated at the Southern Insect Central Hospital in Budapest, and officials in Slovakia also planned to start administering the drugs from Saturday evening.
After being shipped from a manufacturing facility in Belgium before Christmas, the first shipment of the vaccine arrived in super-cold containers on Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning to hospitals across the EU.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen released a video celebrating the release of the vaccine, saying it was “a touching moment of unity”.
“Today, we are starting to turn the page in a difficult year. The COVID-19 vaccine has been given to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the European Union, ”he said.
The release marks a moment of optimism for a region that includes the world’s earliest and worst-affected virus hotspots, such as Italy and Spain and the Czech Republic. The place to break in the fall.
In all, at least 16 million corona virus infections and more than 336,000 deaths have been reported in 27 EU countries – experts acknowledge the true number of infections due to missed cases and limited trials.
However, the release of the vaccine helps to prevent a sense of solidarity in the complex life-saving task after facing a year of difficulties in negotiating a post-Brexit trade agreement with Britain. It leaves a sigh of relief for EU politicians frustrated after Britain, Canada and the United States launched vaccination programs with the same shot made by Germany earlier this month.
“It’s here, good news for Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spann told a news conference on Saturday. “This vaccine is the crucial key to ending this epidemic … it is the key to getting our lives back on track.”
The first export was less than 10,000 volumes in most countries, and mass vaccination programs are expected to begin only in January. Each country decides for itself who gets the first shots – but they are all very vulnerable.
In Hungary, the first ship 9,750 doses – enough to vaccinate 4,875 people, requiring two doses per person – arrived by truck early Saturday morning and was taken to Southern Insect Central Hospital in Budapest. The government said the other four hospitals, two in Budapest and two in the eastern cities of Debrecen and Nyregihasa, would receive vaccines from the initial ship.
French officials said they would prioritize the elderly, based on the virus’ lethal impact on the elderly in previous viral infections. The French Medical Safety Agency will monitor the release of the vaccine for any complications.
Germany, which has lost more than 30,000 lives to the epidemic, started with people over the age of 80 and caregivers of vulnerable groups.
Spanish officials said the first batch of vaccines arrived in the central city of Guadalajara, where the first shots will be delivered Sunday morning at a hospital.
In Italy, which has the worst virus in Europe, with more than 71,000 dead, a nurse will be the first in the vaccinated country at Rome’s Spalanzani Hospital, a facility for major infectious diseases in the capital, followed by other health workers.
In Poland, the first two people to be vaccinated on Sunday will be a nurse and a doctor at the Interior Ministry Hospital in Warsaw, followed by medical staff at dozens of other hospitals. Polish Prime Minister Matteo Moraveki called the vaccination a “patriotic duty of the poles” – a message to a community born out of general distrust of the authorities and a high level of vaccine reluctance.
In Bulgaria, where fears about vaccines are running high, the first person to receive the shot was Health Minister Kostadin Angelov, who has pledged an aggressive campaign to improve the benefits of the shots.
In Croatia, 9,750 vaccines arrived early Saturday morning, and a nursing home resident in the capital, Zagreb, will receive the first vaccination Sunday morning, state HRD television reported. Authorities also planned to involve celebrities and other members of the public in the pro-vaccination campaign.
“We have been waiting for this for a year now,” Romanian Prime Minister Florin said on Saturday, after the first batch of vaccines arrived at a military-run storage facility.
Vaccinations are starting as the first cases of a new virus variant spreading in the UK have now been detected in France and Spain. The new variant, which British officials say spreads more easily, has led European countries, the United States and China to impose new restrictions on those coming from Britain.
A French man living in the UK came to France on December 19 and tested positive for the new variant on Friday, the French Public Health Agency said. He has no symptoms and is being isolated at his home in the central city of Tours.
Health officials in Madrid have confirmed the UK variant in four, all of whom are in good health. Enrique Ruiz Escudero, regional health chief, said the new strain had arrived when the victim flew into Madrid’s airport.
German pharmaceutical company Bioendech is optimistic Its corona virus vaccine works against the New England variant, but further studies should be absolutely certain, he said.
Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland. Associated Press writers include Lorne Cook in Brussels, Angela Charlton in Paris, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, Francis de Emilio in Rome, Joanna Keck in Belgrade, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria.
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