The European Union on December 21 authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, with the first phase of the bloc’s mass inoculation programme to begin later this week. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that it was recommending the shot be licensed for use in people over 16 years of age with some exceptions. In a press briefing, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen called the latest move “an important chapter” in the EU’s fight against COVID-19 and added that the vaccine will now be available for all EU countries at the same time and on the same conditions. 

Von der Leyen informed that the first batches of the vaccine would be shipped from Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Belgium in the next few days, with vaccinations starting on December 27. Further, she added that the EU drug regulator would deliver their verdict on Moderna’s vaccine on January 6, potentially giving Europe a second tool with which to battle the unprecedented pandemic early in the new year.