In a very welcome announcement after an extraordinarily difficult year ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, it was revealed on Monday afternoon that the European Medicines Agency has given the green light for the emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in the nations of the European Union.
The move paves the way for all European Union citizens to begin receiving the vaccine per the guidelines set up, with health care workers leading the way. Greece had already announced that it would begin taking delivery of the vaccine beginning on December 26 and the first inoculations would begin on Sunday, December 27.
The UK was first to OK the emergency use of the vaccine on December 2, just prior to a new wave of Covid-19 infections from a mutated strain of the virus. London and other areas of the UK are now on a Level 4 lockdown.
The EMA had said that it would consider the vaccine on December 29 but this date was stepped up due to pressure from the German health minister in particular.
Pfizer released late-stage trial data which proved that its vaccine is 95% effective at preventing coronavirus infection.
Experts on the European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee concluded on Monday afternoon that the Pfizer vaccine was indeed safe and effective for people 16 years of age and older, according to the data which is now available.
Emer Cooke, the Executive Director of the EMA, said in a statement that “Today’s positive news is an important step forward in our fight against this pandemic, which has caused suffering and hardship for so many.”
Cooke added that the agency will continue to collect and analyze all possible data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Inoculations to begin in Athens and Thessaloniki Sunday
Also on Monday, it was announced that the country has taken delivery of a number of specialized refrigerator/freezers which will house the vaccine until it is ready for use.
The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine must be kept at a frigid -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit).
The refrigerator/freezers — which are currently being stored at an undisclosed location — have the capacity to hold 80,000 doses of the vaccine.
They will remain empty until December 26, when the Pfizer vaccine, which was OK’d for use in the European Union on Monday afternoon, is due to arrive in Greece.
Inoculations will begin in five hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki one day after they arrive, on Sunday, December 27, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated Friday. The first to receive the desperately-needed vaccine will be healthcare workers.
In an effort to inspire faith in the vaccine’s safety among Greeks, who have expressed doubts regarding the shot and their willingness to take it, Mitsotakis announced that he would be inoculated the first day it becomes available in Greece.
Vaccine skepticism widespread in Greece
According to PM Mitsotakis, skepticism amongst the population regarding the safety of the shot is Greece’s largest hurdle in the campaign to vaccinate a significant portion of the Greek populace.
Unfortunately, doubts about the vaccine are even prevalent among Greek healthcare workers. According to a recent poll of Greek health professionals conducted by Pulse, 29 percent of respondents are against the vaccination, while 15 percent say that they would “never” take the vaccine.
Assuring the public of the vaccine’s safety and effectively distributing the doses will be integral in beginning the process of returning the country to a semblance of normalcy.
“We should know that only when we are approaching a 70 percent vaccination rate of the entire Greek population will we be able to speak with confidence of leaving the pandemic behind us,” PM Mitsotakis stated on Friday.