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The agency said it made the decision after receiving additional data from vaccine manufacturers.

The announcement came after Germany’s health minister and others publicly demanded that the agency act faster than their previously planned December 29 meeting in which they were to discuss approval of the vaccine.

The vaccine is already being administered to thousands of people in Britain, Canada and the United States.
After days of lobbying the European Union medical regulator, From Germany The Health Minister said Tuesday that he had received assurances that the European Medicines Agency will approve a coronavirus vaccine by December 23.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that he “welcomed” German media reports that the EMA would finalize its approval process for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to on December 23, rather than a meeting on December 29.

“Our goal is an approval before Christmas,” Spahn said. “We want to start vaccinating this year.”

Duesseldorf, germany
Christmas lights shine on a virtually empty shopping street in the old town of Duesseldorf, Germany, on December 14, 2020. (AP)

When asked by The Associated Press later if he had received direct confirmation that the vaccine would be approved by then, Spahn said yes, “otherwise he would not have said that.”

However, he added, “the EU has to announce it.”

Spahn did not say from whom he had received confirmation and the EMA could not be immediately reached for comment on exactly when it would release its findings on the approval process.

Spahn has expressed impatience with the EMA for days, noting that Germany has created about 440 vaccination centers, activated about 10,000 doctors and medical personnel, and was ready to begin mass vaccinations immediately.

Italy, where Europe coronavirus outbreak erupted in February and now leads the continent in COVID-19 death tally, it is also pushing for a safe and expedited approval process.

“My hope is that the EMA, in compliance with all safety procedures, can approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than expected and that vaccinations can also start in the countries of the European Union as soon as possible,” said the minister. of Italian Health. Roberto Speranza said in a statement.

Cologne, Germany
This center in Cologne, Germany, is among the hundreds of fair halls, gyms, concert arenas and other venues that authorities are converting into vaccination centers to administer the new COVID-19 vaccine. (Getty)

The new vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer is already being used in Britain, the United States, Canada and other countries. But Germany cannot start vaccines because it is still awaiting approval from the EMA, which evaluates drugs and vaccines for all 27 EU nations.

Seeing the vaccine being administered to thousands of people elsewhere was irritating to many Germans.

“It cannot be that a vaccine that has been developed in Germany will only be approved and vaccinated (here) in January,” said Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, Free Democrats’ federal lawmaker for business.

The German Hospital Association intervened on Tuesday, demanding that the EU shorten its lengthy approval process and issue an emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I wonder if we really need time until December 29 to get vaccination approval in Europe; Europe should try to get an emergency clearance sooner,” Gerald Gass, president of the hospital association, told the RND media group. “That way we could still go to nursing homes with mobile teams before Christmas and vaccinate the residents.”

EMA chief Emer Cooke said Monday that her team is already working “around the clock,” but added that the vaccine’s approval schedule is constantly being reviewed, suggesting the date could change.

Part of the problem could be that the EU is looking to start vaccination in all its nations at the same time, and Germany could be more prepared than others.

Cologne, Germany
General view of the waiting room inside the completed coronavirus vaccination center in a hall at the Koelnmesse fair complex during the center’s presentation to the media on December 15, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Getty)

Spahn’s mounting anxiety comes as Germany has been hitting records for new daily infections and deaths from viruses in recent weeks. Germany’s hospitals and medical groups have also repeatedly warned that they are reaching their limits in caring for COVID-19 patients. On Tuesday, 4,670 COVID-19 patients were being treated in German ICUs.

The nation is entering a hard confinement on Wednesday with schools and most stores closing until at least January 10 to halt the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases.

Spahn’s ministry says Germany is ready to administer 3-4 million doses of BioNTech vaccine in January and up to 11 million doses in the first quarter of 2021.

The country could vaccinate up to 60 percent of Germany’s citizens by late summer, Spahn said Monday night on public broadcaster ZDF. The World Health Organization says that around 60% to 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to successfully crush the pandemic.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s central disease control center, reported 14,432 new confirmed cases and 500 new deaths on Tuesday, the third-highest number of daily deaths since the pandemic began. Germany has tallied over 22,600 virus deaths overall, which is still a third of the figure for Italy or Britain.

The director of the Institute warned that the number of cases will continue to rise for some time after Germany closes on Wednesday.

“People over 80 are increasingly affected, and those are the people who become seriously ill or die.” Lothar Wieler warned.

– Reported with Associated Press

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