Amsterdam: The European Union’s (EU) medicines agency gave the green light Wednesday to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. It is a decision that gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use in the desperate battle to tame the virus rampaging across the continent. Now along with Pfizer, people can also use the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The approval recommendation by the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) human medicines committee – which must be rubber stamped by the EU’s executive commission – comes amid high rates of infections in many EU countries. There has also been strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people.
“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said Emer Cooke, executive director of EMA. “It is a testament to the efforts and commitment of all involved that we have this second positive vaccine recommendation just short of a year since the pandemic was declared by WHO,” added Cooke.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the approval. “Now we are working at full speed to approve it & make it available in the EU,” she said in a tweet.
The EMA has already approved a coronavirus vaccine made by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Both vaccines require giving people two shots.
Ahead of the meeting on the Moderna vaccine, the agency said in a tweet that its experts were ‘working hard to clarify all outstanding issues with the company’. It did not elaborate on what those issues were. Moderna also declined to comment.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said he expected the Moderna vaccine to begin rolling out to EU nations next week. Germany would get 2 million doses in the first quarter and 50 million in all of 2021, Spahn told reporters in Berlin. “The problem is the shortage of production capacity with global demand,” he said.
Both Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTechs shots are mRNA vaccines, made with a groundbreaking new technology. They don’t contain any coronavirus – meaning they cannot cause infection.
Instead, they use a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spike protein on the surface of the virus, ready to attack if the real thing comes along.
The EU officially began giving out Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination shots December 27, but the speed of each nation’s inoculation programme has varied widely.
France vaccinated around 500 people in the first week, while Germany vaccinated 200,000. The Dutch were only beginning to give out vaccine shots Wednesday, the last EU nation to start doing so.