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COVID-19

UPDATE: European Union officially approves Pfizer vaccine for rollout

The EU Commission gave the green light on Monday to the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use across the European Union. It comes after the European Medicines Agency also gave its approval.

UPDATE: European Union officially approves Pfizer vaccine for rollout
EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen. AFP

The EMA's approval paves the way for the roll out of the Pfizer vaccine throughout EU countries.

The final authorisation was granted later on Monday by the EU Commission.

The approval also clears the vaccine for use in Norway and Iceland, which are signed up to the EU's procurement scheme.

“Today we add an important chapter to a European success story, by making available the 1st #COVID19 vaccine for Europeans,” said Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

“More vaccines will come soon. Doses of the vaccine approved today will be available for all EU countries, at the same time, on the same conditions.

“The upcoming European vaccination days will also be a great moment of unity. 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.”

 

In a statement the EMA said: “EMA’s scientific opinion paves the way for the first marketing authorisation of a COVID-19 vaccine in the EU by the European Commission, with all the safeguards, controls and obligations this entails.”

 

 

“Today’s positive news is an important step forward in our fight against this pandemic, which has caused suffering and hardship for so many,” said Emer Cooke (pictured), Executive Director of EMA. “We have achieved this milestone thanks to the dedication of scientists, doctors, developers and trial volunteers as well as many experts from all EU Member States.

AFP

“Our thorough evaluation means that we can confidently assure EU citizens of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine and that it meets necessary quality standards. However, our work does not stop here. We will continue to collect and analyse data on the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine to protect people taking the vaccine in the EU.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the approval is a “decisive moment in our efforts to deliver safe and effective vaccines to Europeans”.

The vaccine has already been approved in the UK, US and Canada. 

In recent weeks EU countries have been preparing to roll out the vaccine. To read more on the vaccination programme in  certain countries you can click on the links below:

France

Spain

Sweden

Germany

Denmark

Austria

Italy

Norway

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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