Europe launched a mass COVID-19 vaccination drive on Sunday with pensioners and medics lining up to get the first shots. – By Reuters.
First to receive was 96-year-old Araceli Hidalgo who became the first person in Spain to have a vaccine at her care home in Guadalajara near the capital Madrid.
The region of 450 million people is trying to catch up with the United States and Britain which have both already started vaccinations using the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
The EU is due to receive 12.5 million doses of the shot by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate 6.25 million people based on the two-dose regimen.
The companies are scrambling to meet global demand and aim to make 1.3 billion shots next year.
Europe has secured contracts with a range of drugmakers besides Pfizer including Moderna and AstraZeneca, for a total of more than two billion vaccine doses and has set a goal for all adults to be inoculated during 2021.
While Europe has some of the best-resourced healthcare systems in the world, the sheer scale of the effort means some countries are calling on retired medics to help while others have loosened rules for who is allowed to give the injections.
With surveys pointing to high levels of hesitancy towards the vaccine in countries from France to Poland, leaders of the 27-country European Union are promoting it as the best chance of getting back to something like normal life next year.
“We have a new weapon against the virus: the vaccine. We must stand firm, once more,” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron, who tested positive for the coronavirus this month and left quarantine on Christmas Eve.