Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that he “welcomed” German media reports that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would end the approval process for the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine until December 23rd and not until December 23rd will complete. 29 meetings.
Later asked by The Associated Press if he had received direct confirmation that the vaccine would be approved by then, Spahn said, “Otherwise I wouldn’t have said that.”
However, he added: “The EU needs to make this known.”
Spahn would not say from whom he had received the confirmation, and the EMA could not be reached immediately for comment on exactly when it would publish its results on the approval process.
Germany on Tuesday increased pressure on European regulators to accelerate the review of a coronavirus vaccine. The health minister, a hospital association and several lawmakers are calling for the vaccine to receive the seal of approval by next week.
“Our goal is to get approval before Christmas,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters. “We want to start vaccinating this year.”
Spahn added that he “welcomed” German media reports that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will complete the approval process for the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine by December 23, instead of at a December 29 meeting.
The EMA could not be reached immediately for an opinion on when exactly it would publish its results on the approval process.
Italy, where the European coronavirus outbreak broke out in February and now leads the continent in the COVID-19 death toll, is also pressing for a safe, expedited approval process.
“I hope that, in accordance with all safety procedures, the EMA can approve the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine earlier than expected and that vaccinations can also start as soon as possible in the countries of the European Union,” said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza in an explanation.
Spahn had been impatient with the EMA for days and found that Germany had set up around 440 vaccination centers, activated around 10,000 doctors and medical staff and was ready to start mass vaccinations immediately.
Spahn is pushing for rapid approval of a new vaccine developed by German BioNTech and American drug manufacturer Pfizer, which is already being used in the UK, the US, Canada and other countries. However, Germany cannot start vaccinations as it is still awaiting approval from the EMA, which evaluates drugs and vaccines for the 27 EU countries.
Seeing many Germans get the vaccine administered to thousands of people elsewhere was annoying for many Germans.
“It cannot be that a vaccine developed in Germany will not be approved and vaccinated until (here) in January,” said Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, federal legislator for the business-friendly Free Democrats.
The German Hospital Association got involved and called on the EU to shorten the lengthy approval process and to issue an emergency approval for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
“I wonder if we really need until December 29th to get vaccination approval in Europe – Europe should try to get emergency approval sooner,” Gerald Gass, president of the hospital association, told the RND media group . “That way we could go to nursing homes with mobile teams and vaccinate the residents before Christmas.”
EMA chief Emer Cooke said Monday that her team was already working “around the clock” but added that the vaccine approval schedule was under constant review, suggesting the date may change.
Part of the problem could be that the EU is trying to start vaccinations in all of its countries at the same time, and Germany may be better prepared than others.
Spahn’s growing fear comes from the fact that Germany has set records for new daily infections and virus deaths in recent weeks. Hospitals and medical groups across Germany have also repeatedly warned that they are reaching their limits in the care of COVID-19 patients. On Tuesday, 4,670 COVID-19 patients were treated in German intensive care units.
The nation will face a tough lockdown Wednesday as schools and most businesses close until at least January 10th to halt the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases.
According to Spahn’s ministry, Germany is ready to administer 3 to 4 million BioNTech vaccine doses in January and up to 11 million doses in the first quarter of 2021.
By the end of the summer, the country could vaccinate up to 60% of German citizens, said Spahn on Monday evening on the public broadcaster ZDF. The World Health Organization says around 60% to 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to successfully fight the pandemic.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s central disease control center, reported 14,432 new confirmed cases and 500 new deaths on Tuesday, the third highest number of daily deaths since the pandemic began. Germany has counted a total of over 22,600 virus deaths, which is still a third of the death toll in Italy or Great Britain.
The head of the Robert Koch Institute warned that the number of cases would continue to rise for some time after Germany was blocked on Wednesday. He expressed concern that older people and residents of nursing homes in particular are once again confronted with high numbers of infections.
“The over 80 age group is being affected more and more, and these are the people who become seriously ill or die,” warned Lothar Wieler.
Frank Jordans in Berlin, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Maria Cheng reported from Toronto, Canada.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text. Only the heading was changed.