Mass vaccination against COVID-19 begins

After months of hard work in the laboratories of Pfizer and BioNTech, the innovative coronavirus vaccine is ready to be thrown into battle, as the British authorities have given their approval to start the vaccinations from next week, a move which, however provoked reactions in the rest of Europe. For its part, the World Health Organization has expressed doubts about the availability of adequate vaccine doses over the next three to six months (photo: Pfizer / Handout via REUTERS).

Britain yesterday approved the first COVID-19 vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer / BioNTech, the first of the Western states. The development paved the way for mass vaccination of the population, which is expected to begin in the country next week. Absolute priority will be given to the health, the elderly, the inmates of nursing homes and institutions for the chronically ill, as well as to the members of other, particularly vulnerable, groups. Pfizer chief Albert Burla, following the announcement of the drug’s approval by British regulators, spoke of “a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19”, while BioNTech chief Ugur Sahin referred to the “beginning of the end” pandemic “.

Although the British regulator announced that the evaluation of the vaccine was carried out in accordance with international standards and within the provisions of European law, the respective EU body announced yesterday that the longest-running procedures followed in the EU for the approval of COVID-19 vaccines are safer. Approval of the new vaccine is also expected to be issued by the World Health Organization, which, however, called for systematic observance of social distancing measures, as it doubts that there will be sufficient vaccine doses in the next three to six months to prevent a short-term of the pandemic. The German BioNTech, however, in yesterday’s announcement states that it will continue to carry out studies to determine if the injectable preparation protects against coronavirus infection and not only against the viral pneumonia that it causes.

In another development, yesterday’s Interpol warning to its 194 member states, which calls for preparations against organized crime actions, which will target vaccines, caused concern. “The pandemic has already provided opportunities for unprecedented aggressive and opportunistic criminal activity,” the statement said, adding that “promoting, selling and distributing counterfeit vaccines” had already been identified.

“It is crucial to shield the safety of vaccine distribution and to identify illegal Internet addresses that sell counterfeit products, vaccines and tests that pose a risk to the health and lives of victims of criminal organizations.”

Finally, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reduced the quarantine recommendation in case of contact with a confirmed case, from 14 days to date, to ten or seven, if no symptoms have occurred and a negative test has been obtained, respectively. The criterion for the decision was that there is a better chance of a shorter quarantine.