European Commission gives final go-ahead for first vaccine against COVID-19

The first COVID-19 vaccine is given the final go-ahead by the European Commission to start rolling out across the EU after positive recommendation from the European Medicines Agency

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

The European Commission has granted a conditional marketing authorisation for the COVID‑19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer following a recommendation by the European Medicines Agency.

This is the first coronavirus vaccine authorised for distribution in the EU and comes after EMA earlier today gave a positive scientific recommendation after it assessed the jab’s safety and effectiveness. The decision is endorsed by the member states.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said today marked an important chapter for Europe.

“This is a good way to end this difficult year, and to start turning the page on this pandemic. We are all in this together,” she said.

Stella Kyriakides, European health commissioner said this was a day of European solidarity in action. “After months of work, we are seeing our EU vaccines strategy bear fruit – access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines at the same time for all member states,” she said.

BioNTech and Pfizer made a formal application for a conditional marketing authorisation on 1 December.

This followed the analysis of their data in a rolling review by EMA that helped speed up things, while ensuring that all requirements in terms of safety, effectiveness and quality of the vaccine were fully and thoroughly evaluated.

Earlier today, Health Minister Chris Fearne said Malta will be receiving its first vaccines in line with other EU countries on Boxing Day and inoculation will start on the 27 December.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This allows cells to manufacture harmless fragments of viral proteins that the human body uses to build an immune response to prevent or fight subsequent, natural infection.

When a person is given the vaccine, their cells will read the genetic instructions and produce fragments of the ‘spike protein', a protein on the outer surface of the virus which it uses to enter the body's cells, to replicate, and cause disease.

The person's immune system will then treat this protein as foreign and produce natural defences — antibodies and T cells — against it.

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