EU countries launched a vaccination campaign on Sunday to defeat Covid-19’s “nightmare”, with the first being vaccinated to express feelings after their jab and leaders celebrating a milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
The vaccine is a glimmer of hope for a continent longing to return to normal from a pandemic that has killed 1.76 million people worldwide since it erupted in China late last year and caused at least 80 million confirmed cases, according to a AFP count.
However, surveys have shown that many Europeans do not want to take the vaccine, which could hinder its effectiveness in beating the virus, while it will take months before large sections of the population are immunized.
It is with deep pride and a deep sense of responsibility that I received the vaccine today. A small gesture but a basic gesture for all of us “, says Claudia Alivernini, 29, an Italian nurse who was the first in her country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on Sunday morning.
In Greece, it was nurse Efstathia Kampissiouli who flashed a V sign while she was being vaccinated and later told Ert TV that it was “a great honor for me but also for those who work in the front line.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the launch of the campaign as a “touching moment of unity and a European success story”, adding that the process “will help bring our normal lives back gradually.”
However, countries show different strategies, with Italy focusing on health workers, France the elderly and in the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovakia political leaders over gender.
Things “can actually get worse”
But the introduction of the vaccine worldwide is far from the end of the crisis. In a gloomy assessment, the American top researcher Anthony Fauci warned on Sunday that “when we get into the next few weeks, it can actually get worse”.
Israel on Sunday began a nationwide two-week lock-in – the third since the pandemic began – after a sharp decline in the rate of infection.
A new strain of the virus that emerged in the UK has already reached several other European countries as well as Japan, Canada and Jordan and intensified fears of more Covid-19 devastation to come.
The new tribe – which experts believe is more contagious – prompted more than 50 countries to impose restrictions on Britain.
Ecological concerns from officials across the continent, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France has not ruled out imposing a third nationwide lock-in if coronavirus cases continue to increase after the holidays.
He said it would become clear in the coming months if the vaccine could not only prevent people from getting sick but also prevent the virus from spreading.
“This would allow us to leave this nightmare faster,” he said.
” Felt nothing ”
Some EU countries began vaccinating on Saturday, a day before the official start, with a 101-year-old woman in a nursing home becoming the first person in Germany to be vaccinated and Hungary and Slovakia also handed out their first shots.
Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez, a 96-year-old living in a nursing home in central Spain, became the first person in the country to be vaccinated on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television. She said with a smile that she felt “nothing” from the shot.
France began its campaign in a nursing home for the elderly in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, a low-income area hit hard by Covid-19, with a 78-year-old woman named Mauricette being the first to receive a round of applause from staff.
“We have a new weapon against the virus – the vaccine,” tweeted President Emmanuel Macron.
But a poll published in the Journal du Dimanche that 56 percent of French people do not plan to take the job.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven described the vaccine as a “ray of light in the dark”. One of the first Swedes to receive the vaccine, Stig Larsson, 89, said that he “did not hesitate” to be inoculated.
The United Kingdom, China, Russia, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia have already launched their vaccination campaigns.
Vaccines other than Pfizer-BioNTech jab are also underway, and the United States, where over one million people have already been vaccinated, began jabs last week with the vaccine developed by the American biotechnology company Moderna.
Meanwhile, the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca have applied to the UK authorities for permission to roll out their Covid-19 vaccine, which CEO Pascal Soriot described as a “winning formula”.