European countries make moves on Covid-19 vaccine as timeline emerges

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Spain will start a vaccination programme in January, its prime minister said. Photo: AFP via Getty Images.
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Updates have emerged from several countries in Europe on plans to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine, sketching a distribution timeline that brings hope as a second wave of the virus ravages the continent.

Pfizer Inc's vaccine could get British regulatory approval by the end of the week, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.

British regulators are about to start a formal appraisal of the vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech SE, with the National Health Service told to be ready to administer the doses by December 1st, the Telegraph said.

Meanwhile, the Spanish prime minister said Spain will begin a comprehensive coronavirus vaccination programme in January and expects to have covered a substantial part of the population within six months.

A very substantial part of the population will be able to be vaccinated... in the first half of the year

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Prime minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday that Spain and Germany were the first European Union countries to have a complete vaccination plan in place.

"The campaign will start in January and have 13,000 vaccination points," Mr Sanchez told a news conference after a two-day online summit of G20 leaders.

"A very substantial part of the population will be able to be vaccinated, with all guarantees, in the first half of the year."

Spain will implement a single national strategy, starting with "priority groups", Mr Sanchez said, adding that he would present the plan to the cabinet on Tuesday. He also said more health professionals would be recruited.

"We have a tough few months ahead of us but the road map has been drawn up," he said.

Spain has western Europe's second highest tally of confirmed coronavirus infections after France, with some 1.5 million cases and 46,619 deaths.

COVAX

It comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged COVAX, an initiative set up to provide Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries, to start talks immediately with producers.

"I am concerned that there are no negotiations," Ms Merkel told journalists on Sunday after the G20 summit, at which leaders of the 20 biggest economies vowed to spare no effort to supply Covid-19 drugs, tests and vaccines to the world affordably and fairly.

Ms Merkel said that, unlike COVAX, the European Union and the United States were already advanced in their efforts to secure vaccine doses.

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"The most important thing is that COVAX now negotiates with producers of potential vaccines with the money it has," Ms Merkel said.

Dozens of countries have signed up to the global vaccine plan known as COVAX, which was set up by the World Health Organisation and the GAVI vaccine group to provide vaccine doses for countries that could not otherwise afford them.

It has so far raised $5 billion (€4.2 billion), including over €500 million from Germany.

It was also reported today that the first Americans could receive a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as 24 hours after the FDA grants approval, which would kick off the largest inoculation campaign in US history starting in mid-December.

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