WARSAW, POLAND (AP) – Hungarian doctors and healthcare workers began inoculating on Saturday with one of the continent’s first shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, upsetting plans for a coordinated Sunday launch of first shots across the 27-European Union.
The first shipments of Coronavirus vaccines arrived across the cluster late Friday and Saturday morning. It was not immediately clear why the Hungarian authorities started the vaccination so early. The authorities in Slovakia also announced that they intend to start administering their first doses on Saturday evening.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen released a video to celebrate the launch of the vaccine, describing it as “a moving moment of unity”.
“Today, we start turning the page in a difficult year. The COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all European Union countries. And she said that vaccination will start tomorrow across the European Union.
In Hungary, the first shipment of 9,750 doses – sufficient to vaccinate 4,875 people, given that two doses are needed per person – arrived by truck early Saturday and taken to South Pest Central Hospital in Budapest. The government said four other hospitals, two in Budapest and two others in the eastern cities of Debrecen and Nyiregyhaza, will receive the vaccines from the initial shipment.
The vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer arrived by truck in extremely cold conditions to warehouses across the continent on Friday and Saturday morning after being dispatched from a manufacturing center in Belgium before Christmas.
The launch marks a moment of hope in a region that boasts some of the world’s oldest and most virulent regions, including Italy and Spain, and others, like the Czech Republic, which survived the worst early on just to see their health. Care systems near breaking points in the fall.
In all, the 27 member states of the European Union have seen at least 16 million cases of coronavirus and more than 336,000 deaths.
“It’s here, the good news for Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference on Saturday. “This vaccine is the critical key to ending this epidemic.”
“This is the key to getting back our lives,” Span said.
The start of implementation comes as a result of coordination on the part of all 27 member states, which also helps the bloc to demonstrate a sense of unity in a life-saving mission of logistical complexity following the difficulties in negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal. With Britain.
However, first doses are limited to less than 10,000 doses in most countries, and mass vaccination programs are expected to start only in January.
Each country decides on their own who gets the first shots – but they all put the most vulnerable people first.
The French authorities said they would prioritize the elderly, based on the significant impact on the older population in previous waves of the virus in France. The French Medical Safety Agency will monitor potential problems.
Germany, where the epidemic has killed more than 30,000 people, will start with those over the age of 80 and the people who care for vulnerable groups.
Spanish authorities said early on Saturday that the first batch of the coronavirus vaccine had arrived in the country, and had arrived in the central city of Guadalajara – where the first vaccinations will be given on Sunday morning in a nursing home.
In Italy, which leads Europe in the number of known confirmed deaths, a nurse in Rome at Spallanzani Hospital, the main infectious disease facility in the capital, should be the first in the country to receive the vaccine, 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, the main hospital for coronavirus in the capital, followed by medical staff in dozens of other hospitals.
Prime Minister Matthews Murawiecki recently described it as a patriotic duty of Poles to get vaccinated – a message to a society where there is a high degree of vaccine hesitancy resulting from a general mistrust of the authorities.
In Bulgaria, where doubts are also growing, Health Minister Kostdin Angelov will be the first person to get the shot, who has promised to launch a fierce campaign to promote the benefits of the injection.
In Croatia, where the first batch of 9,750 vaccines arrived early Saturday, the residents’ nursing home in Zagreb, the capital, will be the first to receive the vaccine Sunday morning, according to official HRT TV.
HRT also reported that authorities will launch a pro-vaccination campaign that includes celebrities and other public figures who get the vaccine in front of the camera.
“We have been waiting for this for a year now,” Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cato said on Saturday after the first batch of vaccine arrived at an army-run storage facility there.
Vaccinations begin when the first cases of a new variant of the virus that was spreading in the United Kingdom were discovered in France and Spain. The new alternative caused many European countries to restrict traffic with Britain.
The French Public Health Agency said in a statement that a French man living in England arrived in France on December 19 and tested positive for the new variant Friday. He has no symptoms and is isolated at his home in the city center of Tours.
Meanwhile, the health authorities in the Madrid region said that they had confirmed the infection of four people, all of whom were in good health. Regional Health Director Enrique Ruiz Escudero said the new strain arrived when an infected person flew to Madrid airport.
The German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident Its coronavirus vaccine is working against the new variant in the UK, but more studies are needed to be absolutely sure.
Associated Press writers Lorn Cook in Brussels, David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, Angela Charlton in Paris, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, Frances de Emilio in Rome, Giovanna Jake in Belgrade, Serbia, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria contributed to this report.