The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has stepped up its meeting to December 21 to review COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer of the United States and BioNTech of Germany, following the launch of COVID-19 vaccines in the UK and the US. Although the European Commission has the final say on the task of issuing recommendations for new treatments, it usually follows the recommendations made by EMA.
The President of the European Commission, Eugenie von der Leine, confirmed on Twitter that Europe would have a Pfizer vaccine by Christmas, writing: “The EU is working hard to make every day worthwhile and we are full speed ahead in assessing the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 candidate vaccines. We welcome EMA’s decision to bring forward the meeting so that the vaccine can be approved before Christmas. The first Europeans could be vaccinated against Pfizer as soon as the end of this year.” EMA had previously indicated that the meeting could be postponed until 29 December, but it now appears to be moving forward as scheduled.
EMA also noted that the meeting of medical experts followed requests from Pfizer and BioNTech for more data, and that the European Commission would quickly track its process within a few days to decide whether to make a final approval decision. German Health Minister Jens Spahn said his country should start the Pfizer vaccine within 24 to 72 hours after it is approved by the European Union, and possibly before Christmas. Germany, France, Italy and five other European countries will coordinate their vaccination campaigns, the German and EU health ministers said in a joint statement.
Reuters noted earlier this week that EMA, which evaluates European Medicines, had been identified as the target of a cyber attack that gave hackers access to documents related to Pfizer’s vaccine development. Another US pharmaceutical company, Moderna, said it had contacted EMA authorities and was informed that the cyber attack had obtained its submission of interview documents related to COVID-19 candidate vaccines. Moderna also stressed that their submission to EMA does not include any information identifying individual study participants, and there are currently no details identifying individual study participants.
According to the latest statistics, the cumulative number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally has exceeded 73.74 million. The accumulative total of more than 500000 confirmed in 25 countries around the world, in addition to the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Turkey, Britain, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Iran, Peru, Ukraine, South Africa, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech republic, Iraq, Chile and Romania. The four countries with more than 100,000 cumulative deaths are the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. In the United States, there have been more than 17.11 million confirmed cases and more than 310,000 deaths. Fifteen countries — the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Turkey, The United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Poland and Iran — now have more than 1 million cumulative confirmed cases.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced measures at the weekend to reinstate the restrictions following a renewed outbreak at home, saying: “The restrictions currently in place, including the closure of bars, restaurants, art galleries and leisure facilities, are clearly insufficient to cope with the second wave of COVID-19 in Germany. This week we will be introducing new restrictions limiting Christmas to the smallest family gatherings, there will be no carols, there will be no parties, and the holiday stalls that germans love will be closed.” In the past two weeks, Germany has seen record numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, and more intensive care units.