Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that he had “welcomed” reports from German media that the European Medical Agency, or EMA, would end its approval process for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine by 23 May. December, instead of in December. 29 meeting.
Asked later by The Associated Press whether he had received direct confirmation that the vaccine would be approved by then, Spahn said he “otherwise I wouldn’t have said that.”
He added, however, “The EU must announce it.”
Spahn would not say from whom he received the confirmation, and the EMA could not be contacted immediately for exactly when it would publish its findings on the approval.
Germany on Tuesday stepped up pressure on European regulators to step up their review of a coronavirus vaccine, with its health minister, hospital association and several lawmakers urging the vaccine to receive the approval stamp by next week.
“Our goal is approval before Christmas,” San Minister Jens Spahn told reporters. “We want to start vaccinating again this year.”
Spahn added that he had “welcomed” reports from German media that the European Medical Agency, or EMA, would end its approval process of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine by December 23 instead of a meeting on the 29th. December.
The EMA could not be contacted immediately for exactly when it will publish its results on the approval.
Italy, where the European coronavirus outbreak erupted in February and which now leads the continent in the COVID-19 death toll, is also pushing for safe, accelerated approval.
“My hope is that the EMA, in accordance with all safety procedures, will be able to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine sooner than expected and that vaccinations can also begin in European Union countries as soon as possible,” Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement.
Spahn expressed impatience with the EMA for days, noting that Germany had set up about 440 vaccination centers, activated about 10,000 doctors and medical personnel and was ready to start mass vaccinations immediately.
Spahn is working for a rapid approval of a new vaccine developed by the German BioNTech and the US drug factory Pfizer, which is already used in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and other countries. But Germany cannot start vaccinations, as it is still awaiting approval from the EMA, which evaluates drugs and vaccines for the 27 EU countries.
Seeing the vaccine given to thousands of people elsewhere was furious for many Germans.
“It can’t be that a vaccine developed in Germany is only approved and vaccinated (here) in January,” said Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, a federal MP with the pro-trade Free Democrats.
The German Hospital Association has stepped in, demanding that the EU shorten its lengthy approval process and grant emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“I wonder if we really need time until December 29 to get approval for vaccination in Europe – Europe needs to try to get emergency authorization sooner,” said Gerald Gass, president of the hospital association to the media group RND. “That way we could still go into nursing homes with mobile equipment before Christmas and vaccinate the residents.”
EMA chief Emer Cooke said Monday that her team is already working “continuously,” but added that the timeline for vaccine approval is constantly under review, suggesting the date could change.
Part of the problem could be that the EU is aiming to trigger vaccinations in all its nations at once, and Germany could be more prepared than others.
Spahn’s growing anxiety comes as Germany has hit records of new daily infections and viral deaths in recent weeks. Hospitals and medical groups across Germany have also repeatedly warned that they are reaching their limits to care for COVID-19 patients. On Tuesday, 4,670 patients with COVID-19 were treated in German ICUs.
The nation enters a tough blockade on Wednesday with schools and most stores closing at least until Jan. 10 to halt the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases.
Spahn’s ministry says Germany is ready to give 3 to 4 million BioNTech vaccines in January and up to 11 million doses in the first quarter of 2021.
The country will be able to vaccinate up to 60% of German citizens by the end of the summer, Spahn said Monday evening via public broadcaster ZDF. The World Health Organization says that about 60% to 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to successfully alleviate the pandemic.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s central center for disease control, on Tuesday reported 14,432 new confirmed cases and 500 new deaths, the third highest number of daily deaths since the pandemic began. Germany counted more than 22,600 viruses dead in total, which is another one-third of the number of Italy or Britain.
The head of the institute Robert Koch warned that the cases will continue to grow for some time after Germany is locked up on Wednesday. He expressed concern that especially older people and nursing home residents are once again facing high infection figures.
“The age group of those over the age of 80 is getting more and more effective, and those are people who are seriously ill or dying.” Lothar Wieler warned.
Frank Jordans in Berlin, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Maria Cheng contributed reporting from Toronto, Canada.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
This story was published by a wireless agency with no modifications to the text. Only the headline was changed.