The European Union began on Sunday a coordinated rollout of coronavirus vaccinations across its 27 member states in a drive to inoculate some 450 million people.
Why it matters: Several European countries have 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 on Saturday. Most countries received just under 10,000 doses in their first shipments, according to AP.
- Germany, Hungary and Slovakia gave their first coronavirus vaccine shots on Saturday, one ahead of the coordinated launch, AP notes.
- 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.
Go deeper… The challenge of 2021: Vaccinating the world
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with news of the coordinated rollout.