EMA brings Pfizer/BioNTech decision forward, Europe braces for holiday period

Madrid Desk, Dec 15 (efe-epa).- The European Medicines Agency on Tuesday announced it would bring forward its evaluation of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by eight days to 21 December, slating it before, rather than after Christmas.

The news comes as governments across Europe prepare tough restrictions in a bid to avoid a third wave of the virus at a time of year when families and friends travel to spend the festive period together.

The EMA, whose experts will advise whether or not the European Union should approve market authorization for the vaccine, said its human medicines committee had been working “intensively over the past weeks to evaluate data submitted by BioNTech and Pfizer.”

“The rate of progress is reliant on a robust and complete assessment of the quality, safety and efficacy and is determined by availability of additional information from the company to respond to questions raised during the evaluation,” it added in a statement.

The original evaluation had been scheduled to take place on 29 December.

A number of European nations are beefing up Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to pre-emptively stem any new waves of the virus resulting from the movement of people.

Countries like Germany and the Netherlands are tightening the screws on existing restrictions while experts in the United Kingdom — which has already approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine —  warned the government that its current plans to relax measures for the festive period could backfire.

Germany’s government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the leaders of its 16 federal subdivisions, agreed to enforce a strict lockdown plan throughout the holiday period starting from Wednesday and lasting until 10 January.

All non-essential businesses and schools will have to close, joining hospitality and the culture sector, which has been shuttered up since November. And social gatherings will be limited to five people from no more than two households, although those aged 14 and under are exempt.

On 24, 25, 26 December, that limit will be boosted to nine people.

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