EU’s first Pfizer vaccines start journey under police escort
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
The first coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech have left Pfizer’s factory in Puurs (in the Antwerp area) under police escort to be distributed around the EU.
Three large cooling trucks left the factory, escorted by two police cars each, for a distribution centre of Essers transport. From there, smaller cooling trucks set off for other EU countries to deliver the first vaccines.
The vaccines have to be kept at temperatures between -70 and -80 degrees Celsius, and the drivers of the trucks are specially trained in order to act immediately in case something goes wrong, Essers’ pharma business unit manager Joris Mertens told Radio 2 Limburg on Wednesday.
The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was recommended for a conditional marketing authorisation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Monday, and approved by the European Commission the same day.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the vaccine would “be available to all EU countries at the same time, on the same conditions.”
The vaccine was already approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom and the United States, and Switzerland authorised the vaccine for use on Saturday, administering the first vaccine today.
96-year-old Jos Hermans, who lives in a residential care centre in Puurs, will be the first person in Belgium to receive the vaccine on Monday. Three residential care centres are slated to receive vaccinations in total on Monday.
Belgium’s vaccine rollout is causing a stir as warnings came up that Belgium would have to ensure it does not show any regional bias after reports that four residential care centres in the Flemish region that were initially set to get the vaccine the next day. While government officials said the plans were unofficial, they remained enough to raise the debate.
However, Belgium’s health ministers decided on Wednesday that the next vaccines would indeed be administered in Flanders on 30 December, if the vaccinations on Monday go well. The vaccines will be administered in the Leuven area as the vaccines will be stored there, the health ministers said.