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‘The day we have been waiting for’: EU countries start vaccine rollout

The Independent logo The Independent 27/12/2020 Zoe Tidman
a group of people that are talking to each other © Provided by The Independent

EU countries have kicked off their rollout of coronavirus vaccinations, with the first people receiving jabs this weekend.

Italy’s health minister celebrated “the day we have been waiting for”, as a nurse became the first person in the country to get vaccinated. 

Many countries in the bloc started their vaccination programmes on Sunday, amid hopes that it will mark a turning point in the continent’s battle against coronavirus

However, the first jabs were given in Germany, Hungary and Slovakia a day early, on Boxing Day, upsetting plans for a coordinated rollout. 

The operator of a German nursing home where dozens of people were vaccinated on Saturday, including a 101-year-old woman, said: “Every day that we wait is one day too many.”

Other nations, including France, Spain and Italy, were going ahead with plans to start their programmes on Sunday.

Five doctors and nurses in Rome became the first to get the jab in Italy. 

Roberto Speranza, the Italian health minister, wrote on Twitter: “The road ahead is still long, but finally we have the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, in Spain, a 96-year-old woman living in a nursing home and a member of staff were the first to receive the vaccine on Sunday.  

“Let's see if we can all behave and make this virus go away,” said Araceli Hidalgo, the elderly resident, after receiving her injection.

In Prague, the Czech prime minister received his jab early on Sunday. Sitting next to him in a wheelchair, Second World War veteran Emilie Repikova was also vaccinated.

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Each EU country is deciding on its own who will get the first shots, with most vowing to put the elderly and residents in nursing homes first.

In France, the plan was to start administering it in the Greater Paris area and the Burgundy-Franche-Comte region on Sunday. 

A 78-year-old woman, who gave her name as Mauricette, became the first person in the country to receive the jab, with staff at the hospital in a Parisian suburb breaking out into applause. 

In Poland, a medical worker was the first person in the country to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Alicja Jakubowska, the head nurse at the main coronavirus hospital in Warsaw, said the fact that she was chosen for the monumental event was “a nod to hardworking nurses and midwives”. 

In Croatia, a 81-year-old care home resident became the first person to receive the vaccine on Sunday.

The rollout across the EU comes after shipments of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which has already started being administered in the UK and Canada, began to arrive across the continent on Friday.

a woman sitting on a table: Araceli Hidalgo, a 96-year-old nursing home resident, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccineLa Moncloa/AFP via Getty Images © Provided by The Independent Araceli Hidalgo, a 96-year-old nursing home resident, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccineLa Moncloa/AFP via Getty Images

On Boxing Day, Hungary gave out their first jab ahead of the official rollout, vaccinating frontline workers at hospitals in Budapest, while healthcare workers in Slovakia also received jabs. 

Meanwhile, in Germany, a small number of people at a nursing home were vaccinated a day earlier than the planned coordinated rollout.

“We don't want to waste that one day that the vaccine loses shelf life. We want to use it right away,” Karsten Fischer, a member of pandemic staff in the Harz district of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, told local broadcaster MDR.

a couple of people posing for the camera: World War II veteran Emilie Repikova sits next to PM Andrej Babis as she receives the second injection nationwide with a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Military University Hospital in Prague, Czech RepublicReuters © Provided by The Independent World War II veteran Emilie Repikova sits next to PM Andrej Babis as she receives the second injection nationwide with a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Military University Hospital in Prague, Czech RepublicReuters

As all countries prepared for their official rollout, politicians celebrated the vaccination drive across the EU as a beacon of hope in the battle against the virus. 

“This morning, beyond France, all of Europe is starting to vaccinate against Covid-19,” Oliver Veran, the French health minister, tweeted on Sunday. 

"The vaccine is a common good, a chance in the fight against the epidemic. It will save lots of lives.”

After getting his jab in Sofia, the head of Bulgaria’s anti-virus taskforce, General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, said: “We are at war, but our weapon has arrived and it is in these small vials.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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