Germany, Hungary and Slovakia gave their first coronavirus vaccine shots Saturday, a day ahead of the rollout of the vaccine in several other European Union countries, AP reports.
Why it matters: The vaccinations come as the first cases of the new variant of the coronavirus, first reported in the United Kingdom, were detected in France and Spain, per The New York Times. Several European countries have also tightened restrictions as cases, deaths and hospitalizations surge.
- EU countries have recorded at least 16 million COVID-19 cases and 336,000 deaths since the pandemic began, per AP.
The big picture: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments arrived to EU countries, home to nearly 450 million people, on Saturday.
- Most countries received just under 10,000 doses in their first shipments, according to AP.
- The bloc’s mass vaccination campaign is set to begin in January.
- Germany gave the first shots to a small number of people at a home for the elderly on Saturday, per Reuters.
- Hungary administered its first vaccine doses to frontline health workers in Budapest.
- Slovakia also gave some its first shots to healthcare workers, according to AP.
What they’re saying: “Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The COVID-19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video she tweeted Saturday.
- “The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic,” she added.
- German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference Saturday that the “vaccine is the decisive key to end this pandemic … it is the key to getting our lives back,” per AP.
- Slovakia’s health minister, Marek Krajci, called the country’s first coronavirus vaccination “historic moment.”
- Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido called the delivery of the vaccine “a historic milestone for all of us, an important day after such a difficult year,” per Reuters.
- “A window of hope has now opened, without forgetting that there is a very difficult fight ahead.”
Go deeper… The challenge of 2021: Vaccinating the world