Germany furious as EU drug watchdog to fast-track Covid vaccine -Brits already getting jab

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Health Minister Jens Spahn initially said he had received assurances from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that a jab would be approved by December 23. The announcement comes after he called for the process to be sped up because the EU was already lagging behind Britain and the United States in rolling out a vaccine. On Sunday, he said: “All the necessary data on BioNTech are available.

“UK and US have already granted approval. An assessment of the data and approval by the EMA should happen as fast as possible.”

Since his rant, the EMA has announced it will complete its approval process of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid jab by December 21.

The decision will now land eight days ahead of their previously planned date of December 29.

Responding to the news, Mr Spahn said: “Our goal is an approval before Christmas.

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“We want to still start vaccinating this year.”

The health minister had expressed concerns about the delay to the EU’s process with Germany having readied 440 vaccination centres and called up around 10,000 medical staff to begin rolling out the jab immediately.

Germany says it’s ready to give three to four million doses of the BioNTech jab in January and up to 11 million in the first four months of 2021.

Mr Spahn believes as much as 60 percent of his country could be vaccinated by the end of next summer, which is within the World Health Organisation’s prediction, of 60 to 70 percent of the population, to all but end the pandemic.

The EMA, the EU’s drug watchdog, had previously poked criticism at Britain’s fast-tracked efforts for rolling out a vaccine.

While EU states are free to complete their own regulatory checks, they agreed to adopt a unified approach.

But with vaccines in the arms of citizens in Britain and the US, some European capitals have pressed the EMA to accelerate the bloc’s efforts.

Italian health minister Roberto Speranza said: “My hope is that the EMA, in compliance with all safety procedures, will be able to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than expected and that vaccinations can also begin in the countries of the European Union as soon as possible.”

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Many Germans have complained about being forced to wait for the vaccine, which was developed by a domestic firm.

Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, an MP for the German Free Democrats, said: “It cannot be that a vaccine that has been developed in Germany is only approved and vaccinated here in January.”

The German Hospital Association also demanded that the EU shorten its lengthy approval process.

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Its president Gerald Gass said: “I am asking myself if we really need time until Dec 29 to reach the approval of the vaccination in Europe — Europe should try to get an emergency authorisation earlier.

“That way we could still go into nursing homes with mobile teams before Christmas and vaccinate the residents.”

In a bid to quash the criticism, the EMA has insisted it is working “around the clock” to approve the drug.

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