Berlin / Brussels (dpa) – The first vaccine against Covid-19 has been delivered in Germany and other European countries.
Around a year after the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the vaccinations are to start on this Sunday – not only in Germany, but also in Italy, France and numerous other EU countries. People who are particularly at risk are to be the first to receive the preparation from Biontech and Pfizer.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke of a moving moment of unity and a European success story. “The vaccinations will help us gradually return to our normal lives,” she said in a video posted on Twitter on Saturday. As soon as enough people have been vaccinated, one can start traveling again, meeting friends and family and spending the holidays normally. “But until then we have to be careful.”
“Today is delivery day,” said von der Leyen. “And tomorrow the vaccinations against Covid-19 will start in the European Union.” According to her, the vaccine is available in all 27 EU countries at the same time. “And people start vaccinating in Athens, Rome, Helsinki, Sofia, wherever.” More vaccines would be available soon. “Let’s make 2021 our year of European recovery and hope.”
According to Health Minister Jens Spahn, Germany is well prepared for the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history. “The vaccination centers are ready to go, the vaccination teams are in place,” said the CDU politician in Berlin. At the same time, he made it clear that the coronavirus has not yet been defeated with the start of the vaccination campaign. “We will need a lot of patience to leave this pandemic behind us.”
In Germany, the vaccine was distributed to the federal states on Saturday. The federal government has several tens of thousands of Biontech cans delivered to a total of 27 locations. From there they should be distributed to vaccination centers and mobile teams, which should then administer the first vaccinations on Sunday. First, people over 80 years of age, as well as nurses and hospital staff who are particularly at risk, are to be immunized.
First 9,750 cans were delivered to the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia and taken to a secret central warehouse. Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) said: “This is an important moment of confidence. With the delivery of the first corona vaccine, there is hope for a normal life as we knew it before the virus.”
In Bavaria, Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann and Health Minister Melanie Huml (both CSU) received the delivery in Erlangen. It was half of the first 9,750 vaccine doses intended for the Free State, said Huml. The rest of them should arrive in Munich. In other federal states, too, preparations for distributing the vaccine were in full swing.
In Italy, the first doses of the Biontech / Pfizer preparation reached their destination in the capital under military escort. The Ministry of Defense confirmed that the transporter had arrived in a Carabinieri barracks in northern Rome late Friday evening. The first vaccination doses were also delivered in Austria, they came into the country from Belgium via Germany. The approximately 10,000 cans were brought from the border crossing in Suben in Upper Austria to a warehouse in Vienna under police escort, the authorities said. The vaccine has now also reached Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
According to a YouGov survey commissioned by the German Press Agency, around two thirds of Germans want to be vaccinated. 32 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Another 33 percent are also determined to do so, but still want to wait and see possible consequences of the vaccination for others. 19 percent have decided against a vaccination, 16 percent are still undecided.
By the end of March, 11 to 12 million vaccine doses should be available in Germany. Since the preparation has to be administered twice, this amount would be sufficient for approximately 5.5 to 6 million people. Spahn assumes that he will be able to make a “vaccination offer” to all citizens in Germany by the summer – provided that further preparations are approved. In addition to the vaccine from Biontech and its US partner Pfizer, the drug from the US company Moderna is currently playing a role, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) plans to decide on its approval by January 6th.
The German Association of Cities dampened expectations. “A start has been made, but the ghost with the dangerous corona virus is not over yet,” said City Council President Burkhard Jung (SPD) to the newspapers of the Funke media group. The infection situation is currently still worrying and the time for mass vaccinations has not yet come. “There is initially far too little vaccine for this,” said Jung, who is also mayor of Leipzig.
The FDP chairman Christian Lindner sees Germany “not adequately prepared for vaccination”. The FDP would have wished for a clear legal basis for this, because such important questions of life and death should be resolved on a broad basis, Lindner told the German Press Agency in Berlin. “When it comes to the question of logistics, we should use the established medical area as soon as possible beyond the vaccination centers, so that we can make rapid progress with vaccination,” warned the FDP boss.
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