AP

‘Believe in science’: EU kicks off COVID-19 vaccine campaign

Dec 27, 2020, 7:55 AM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 12:36 pm
'Believe in science': EU kicks off COVID-19 vaccine campaign...
Mihaela Anghel, a Romanian nurse, gets the first COVID-19 vaccine administered in the country in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Anghel is the nurse who registered and processed Romania's first official COVID-19 patient, on Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
(AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

ROME (AP) — Doctors, nurses and the elderly rolled up their sleeves across the European Union to receive the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine Sunday in a symbolic show of unity and moment of hope for a continent confronting its worst health care crisis in a century.

Even though a few countries started giving doses a day early, the coordinated rollout for the 27-nation bloc was aimed at projecting a unified message that the vaccine was safe and Europe’s best chance to emerge from the pandemic and the economic devastation caused by months of lockdown.

For health care workers who have been battling the virus with only masks and shields to protect themselves, the vaccines represented an emotional relief as well as a public chance to urge Europe’s 450 million people to get the shots for their own health and that of others.

“Today I’m here as a citizen, but most of all as a nurse, to represent my category and all the health workers who choose to believe in science,” said Claudia Alivernini, 29, who was the first of five doctors and nurses at the Spallanzani infectious disease hospital in Rome to receive the vaccine.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the vaccine — which was developed in record time — a “game-changer.”

“We know that today is not the end of the pandemic, but it is the beginning of the victory,” he said.

Italian virus czar Domenico Arcuri said it was significant that Italy’s first doses were administered at Spallanzani, where a Chinese couple visiting from Wuhan tested positive in January and became Italy’s first confirmed cases.

Within weeks, northern Lombardy became the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe and a cautionary tale of what happens when even wealthy regions find themselves unprepared for a pandemic. Lombardy still accounts for around a third of the dead in Italy, which has the continent’s worst confirmed virus toll at nearly 72,000 dead.

“Today is a beautiful, symbolic day: All the citizens of Europe together are starting to get their vaccinations, the first ray of light after a long night,” Arcuri told reporters.

But he cautioned: “We all have to continue to be prudent, cautious and responsible. We still have a long road ahead, but finally we see a bit of light.”

The vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer started arriving in super-cold containers at EU hospitals on Friday from a factory in Belgium. Each country was only getting a fraction of the doses needed — fewer than 10,000 in the first batches — with the bigger rollout expected in January when more vaccines become available. All those getting shots Sunday will need to come back for a second dose in three weeks.

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Union’s Executive Commission, said with additional vaccines in development, the EU will have more vaccines than necessary for all Europeans in 2021. She indicated the bloc could share its extra supplies with the western Balkans and countries in Africa.

“Europe is well positioned,” she said.

In the Los Olmos nursing home in the Spanish city of Guadalajara, northeast of Madrid, 96-year-old resident Araceli Hidalgo and a caregiver were the first Spaniards to receive the vaccine.

“Let’s see if we can all behave and make this virus go away,” Hidalgo said.

The Los Olmos home suffered two confirmed COVID-19 deaths and another 11 deaths among residents with symptoms who were never tested.

“What we want is for as many people as possible to get vaccinated,” said Mónica Tapias, the 48-year-old worker at the home.

The Czech Republic was spared the worst of the pandemic in the spring only to see its health care system near collapse in the fall. In Prague, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis received his shot at dawn Sunday and asserted: “There’s nothing to worry about.” Sitting next to him was World War II veteran Emilie Repikova, who also received a shot.

Altogether, the EU’s 27 nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths — huge numbers that experts say still understate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and limited testing.

The vaccination campaign should ease frustrations that were building up, especially in Germany, as Britain, Canada and the United States kicked off their inoculation programs with the same vaccine weeks earlier.

As it turned out, some EU immunizations began a day early in Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. The operator of a German nursing home where dozens were vaccinated Saturday, including a 101-year-old woman, said “every day that we wait is one day too many.”

In France, where many question the safety of vaccines, the French government has been cautious in its messaging and keen to ensure that it is not seen as forcing vaccinations on the public. France’s first vaccination at a nursing home in a poor area outside of Paris on Sunday was not broadcast on live television as it was elsewhere in Europe and no government ministers attended.

“We didn’t need to convince her. She said ‘yes, I’m ready for anything to avoid getting this disease,'” said Dr. Samir Tine, head of geriatric services for the Sevran nursing home where France’s first vaccine shot went to 78-year-old Mauricette.

“It’s an important day,” Tine said. “We are very eager to have a new weapon at our disposal and we are very eager to rediscover our normal lives.”

Among the politicians who got shots Sunday to promote a wider acceptance of vaccinations was Bulgarian Health Minister Kostadin Angelov.

“I can’t wait to see my 70-year-old father without fear that I could infect him,” Angelov said.

Meanwhile, a new virus variant that has been spreading rapidly around London and southern England has now been detected in France, Italy, Spain, Canada and Japan. The new variant, which British authorities said is much more easily transmitted, has prompted many countries to restrict travel from Britain.

Japan announced it would temporarily ban all non-resident foreigners from entering through Jan. 31 as a precaution against the U.K.’s new variant.

Germany’s BioNTech has said it’s confident that its vaccine works against the new U.K. variant, but added that further studies are needed to be completely certain.

The European Medicines Agency on Jan. 6 will consider approving another coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna, which is already being used in the United States.

Andreas Raouna, 84, said he was honored to be among the first to get the shot in Cyprus and criticized vaccine skeptics of being “in league with a murderer.”

“If the coronavirus hits you, it’ll be the end of you,” he said.
___
Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland. AP reporters from around Europe contributed.
___
Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
4 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
6 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
7 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
8 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
8 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
‘Believe in science’: EU kicks off COVID-19 vaccine campaign