EU countries on Sunday embarked on a vaccination campaign hailed as the “key” to defeating Covid-19, AFP reports.
The jab is a glimmer of hope for a continent still battling the pandemic in earnest, with infection rates again on the rise, lockdowns imposed and Christmas and New Year plans left in tatters for many.
The numbers vaccinated in the initial days with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are largely symbolic and it will be months before enough are protected to envisage a return to normal from the pandemic that has killed 1.76 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.
In a sign of impatience, some EU countries began vaccinating on Saturday, a day before the official start, with a 101-year-old woman in a care home becoming the first person in Germany to be inoculated and Hungary and Slovakia also handing out their first shots.
A 96-year-old living in a care home in central Spain became the first person in the country to be vaccinated on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television.
She felt “nothing” from the shot, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez said with a smile after being injected.
Salvador Illa Roca/❤️
Araceli y Mónica son las dos primeras personas que se han vacunado en España. Con su gesto, ambas mujeres envían al mundo un mensaje de esperanza porque ya avanzan en el proceso de inmunización. Estamos ante el inicio del fin de la pandemia.#YoMeVacuno #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/AaRG118leL
December 27, 2020
In Italy, the EU country worst hit by the pandemic with 71,000 dead, 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini was the first to receive the vaccination Sunday morning.
“It is with deep pride and a deep sense of responsibility that I got the vaccine today. A small gesture but a fundamental gesture for all of us,” said Alivernini.
“Italy is waking up today,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “This day will remain in our memory for ever.”
EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video on her Twitter account that the campaign start was a “touching moment of unity and a European success story” and said the EU had “secured enough doses for our whole population of 450 million people.”
Ursula von der Leyen
Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries.
Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU.
The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/pYOj5vS2gV
December 26, 2020
“The vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic,” added German Health Minister Jens Spahn. “This is a hopeful day for Europe.”
France is due to begin its campaign in two care homes for the elderly in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, a low-income area hard hit by Covid-19, and also in similar centres in the eastern city of Dijon.
Focusing its strategy on protecting the elderly and thus taking pressure off the hospital system, the government wants one million of the most vulnerable to be vaccinated by the end of February and 15 million people by the summer.