By Thomas Catenacci –
European countries began administering coronavirus vaccinations Sunday as a new, more contagious strain of the virus continued to spread throughout the continent.
Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain were among the first European countries to administer vaccinations Sunday beginning with health care workers, according to NBC News. European Union (EU) regulators formally approved pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 21, The New York Times reported.
“Today is finally a good day,” Italian coronavirus czar Domenico Arcuri said at a press conference Sunday, NBC News reported. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The first vaccinations against COVID-19 are beginning across the European Union today.
— European Commission ???????? (@EU_Commission) December 27, 2020
Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country plans on distributing more than 1.3 million doses by Dec. 31, according to NBC News. France, meanwhile, ordered 63 million doses from the EU, which will be delivered intermittently by July 2021.
A new strain of coronavirus was discovered in the U.K. on Dec. 19, prompting British leaders to introduce additional lockdown measures. The U.K. also informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that the mutant strain of coronavirus could spread quicker than previous strains, the government said in a statement.
More than 40 countries, from Russia and India to Germany and France, have implemented rules restricting travel since the new strain was first reported. Beginning Monday, the U.S. will require airline travelers coming from the U.K. to test negative for coronavirus before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced.
Despite the travel restrictions, Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said Friday that the new strain had been detected in eight European countries.
BioNTech, the company that partnered with Pfizer to develop the vaccine, said it believes the vaccine will be able to combat the new strain.
“The likelihood that our vaccine works… is relatively high,” BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin said Tuesday.
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