Germany pressing EU to speed up vaccine approval

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany is pressuring European Union (EU) authorities to speed up the approval of a coronavirus vaccine as it battles a surge in infections and Britain and the United States (US) begin mass inoculations, reports said yesterday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and Germany’s Health Ministry want the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to bring forward the approval date for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to December 23 from December 29, German newspaper Bild said, citing unnamed sources. The delay in approval was raising questions over “the European Union’s ability to act”, Bild quoted a source as saying.

Berlin’s irritation is more acute as BioNTech is a German firm and the country is preparing to go into partial lockdown from today, with non-essential shops and schools to close.

Singapore and Bahrain have already approved the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, with Canada inoculating its first citizen on Monday. The US kicked off its mass vaccination drive on Monday hoping to turn the tide on the world’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, as the country’s death toll passed 300,000.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told the ZDF broadcaster on Monday evening that Germany’s goal is to have the vaccine approved before Christmas and to “start vaccinating this year”.

A cyclist rides past a Ferris wheel at the old town in Duesseldorf, Germany. PHOTO: AP