Germany’s health minister demanded that the European Union’s regulatory agency work faster to approve a vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and bring an end to the suffering on the continent, while other officials suggested on Monday that residents should forgoe Christmas shopping as a new lockdown loomed that will close schools and most stores.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed Sunday to step up the country’s lockdown measures beginning Wednesday and running to Jan. 10 to stop the exponential rise of Covid-19 cases. Merkel said existing restrictions imposed in November failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections. Germany has been hitting records of new daily infections and virus deaths in recent weeks.
Expressing impatience, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in tweets late Sunday that Germany, which has created more than 400 vaccination centers and has activated about 10,000 doctors and medical staff to start mass vaccinations as early as Tuesday, was hamstrung by the lack of regulatory approval.
It was especially galling because the vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer has been authorized for use in Britain, the United States, Canada and other countries. But it’s still waiting for approval by the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, and can therefore not be used in Germany yet or in any of the EU’s 27 nations.
The EMA has a Dec. 29 meeting on vaccines but Spahn said the agency’s assessment and approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should “take place as quickly as possible.”
“This is also about the trust of the citizens in the European Union’s capacity to act,” Spahn wrote. “Every day that we can start sooner with the vaccinations lessens the suffering and protects those who are the most vulnerable.”
Spahn had previously said that going through EMA approval was the right path.
His ministry said Monday that for January, between 3 to 4 million BioNTech vaccination doses were ready to be given in Germany. It said for the first quarter of 2021, up to 11 million vaccination doses were expected. SOVEREIGNPH