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450m people, 27 nations: Europe’s vaccination campaign in full swing – Times of India

From nursing homes in France to hospitals in Poland, older Europeans and the workers who care for them rolled up their sleeves on Sunday to receive coronavirus vaccine shots in a campaign to inoculate more than 450 million people across the European Union. The inoculations offered a rare respite as the continent struggles with one of its most precarious moments since the pandemic began.
Despite restrictions on movement, shuttering of restaurants and cancellations of Christmas gatherings, the virus has stalked Europe into the dark winter months. The spread of a more contagious variant of the virus in Britain has raised such alarm the much that continental Europe rushed to close its borders to travellers coming from the country. “We start turning the page on a difficult year,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president tweeted. “The #Covid19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries.” More than 3,50,000 people in the 27 nations that make up the EU have died from Covid-19 since the bloc’s first fatality was recorded in France on February 15.
For PM Giuseppe Conte of Italy, the vaccine’s arrival could not come soon enough. Italy’s suffering at the outset of the pandemic served as a warning for the world, and the current death toll is again among the worst in Europe. “Today Italy reawakens. It’s #Vaccine-Day,” he wrote on Twitter after a 29-year-old nurse in Rome became the first person to be inoculated. “This date will remain with us forever.”
Similar scenes played out across the continent, although not every member of the bloc followed the rollout plans. In Germany, a nursing home in Saxony-Anhalt jumped the gun, inoculating dozens of residents on Saturday, hours after the doses arrived. The Netherlands said it planned to begin vaccinations on January 8.
The distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot presents tough challenges as it uses new mRNA technology and must be stored at ultra-low temperatures. In Germany, the campaign faced delays in several cities after a temperature tracker showed that about 1,000 shots may not have been kept cold enough during transit.
All of the member states have national health care systems, so people will be vaccinated free of charge. While each nation is determining how to carry out its campaign, in general the first phase will focus on people most at risk of exposure and those most likely to have serious health conditions — health workers and the oldest citizens. Most member states have said they expect the vaccine to reach the general public by spring.
As Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis got his shot, he said: “It’s the only way to take back control of our lives, to hug the people that we love.”

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