German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced Friday the order in which COVID-19 vaccinations will be carried out, starting with the most vulnerable, more than a week before any vaccine is expected to be approved for use.
At a Berlin news conference, Spahn said he expects the vaccinations will begin about December 27, and because initial quantities will be limited, the first shots will go to people over the age of 80 living in retirement homes, along with staff and medical personnel most at risk of exposing themselves or others to the coronavirus.
Spahn said getting the vaccine out to the general population will take time. He said it will take one to two months to ensure the most vulnerable are vaccinated. He added, “Only then will we be able to consider gradually expanding the offer, within the framework of the law on vaccination."
Germany, like the rest of the European Union, is waiting for emergency approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to grant approval for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected early next week. EU leaders wanted to wait and begin vaccinations in each member nation on the same day, in an act of solidarity.
Britain, Canada and the United States already have begun vaccinations and late Thursday, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel endorsed for emergency use a second vaccine produced by U.S. drug maker Moderna. The FDA is expected to follow that recommendation and quickly approve the vaccine.
The EMA announced Thursday it would move up a planned assessment for the Moderna vaccine to January 6 from January 12. The agency said in a statement it received the final data package from the company ahead of schedule, allowing it to move forward.