Europe pushes for vaccine rollout

Source: AFP Published: 2020/12/17 17:28:40

US sets 24-hour records for COVID-19 deaths and cases

vaccine Photo:VCG

European nations vowed Wednesday to get their coronavirus vaccination campaigns rolling before the end of the year, while the US recorded a shocking new peak of more than 3,700 deaths in one day.

As surges in infections prompted tighter restrictions across several countries, Germany said it will begin vaccinations on December 27 - a date expected to be matched across the European Union. 

France said it would receive around 1.16 million vaccine doses by year-end, with a further 2.3 million coming over the next two months. 

The vaccination drive cannot come too soon to the embattled continent, which is fast approaching 500,000 deaths from the disease. 

"It feels like a Sunday," said Ines Kumpl, 57, observing the deserted streets of Berlin on the first day of a new partial lockdown. "These measures are necessary but it's stressful."

Germany saw a record high of 952 deaths in 24 hours on Wednesday, a figure that could rise as the hard-hit Saxony region was not included.

But the toll was dwarfed by the US, which set a grim double record registering more than 3,700 deaths and over 250,000 new cases in 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Denmark, France, Turkey and the Netherlands have all tightened restrictions and Spain's prime minister expressed alarm at rising infection numbers there.

"To get to the end of the pandemic, we will need up to 70 percent of the population vaccinated," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs.

Pressure has been mounting on the European Union since Britain and the US started their immunization programs, using a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The British government said more than 137,000 people had received a first dose in the week since inoculations began.

The World Health Organization's European wing warned of a resurgence of the virus on the continent early 2021, urging special precautions over the holiday season.

"It may feel awkward to wear masks and practice physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe," it said.

As the US flounders in its efforts to control the virus, the White House announced Vice President Mike Pence and his wife will get the vaccine on Friday in a public display designed to boost fragile national confidence.

The event comes in the first week of the mass vaccination program in the US, which has recorded over 300,000 COVID-19 deaths.

President Donald Trump is "absolutely open to taking the vaccine," a spokeswoman said.


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