Older people and health staff first in line as EU rolls out Covid-19 vaccine

(Update 1: Adds France, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria)

Madrid Desk, Dec 27 (efe-epa).- The European Union on Sunday began its coordinated rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 with nations giving priority to older people and healthcare staff.

Araceli Hidalgo, a 96-year-old resident of Los Olmos care home in Guadalajara, became the first person in Spain to receive the jab at 9 am, followed by Mónica Tapias, a member of the nursing staff at the center.

After getting the first dose of the jab — the second due in 21 days — both volunteers encouraged the rest of the country to follow suit.

“Let’s see if we all behave well and we can get rid of this virus,” said Araceli during an event broadcast live on public television station RTVE.

The government plans to prioritize older people, care home residents with health conditions and care home staff as part of the initial phase of the vaccine rollout.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted: “Today Araceli and Mónica represent a new step of hope. A day of emotion and confidence.

“Spain begins its vaccination campaign against Covid-19 thanks to the strength of its National Health System (SNS) and the thousands of professionals who will guarantee a fast, reliable and fair process.”

Care home residents in Spain were badly impacted during the first wave of Covid-19 that began in March and many have been living in a state of isolation throughout the pandemic.

Frontline healthcare workers are also among the first group set to be vaccinated in Spain.

The Spanish government aims to vaccinate around 2.3 million people (requiring some 4.5 million doses of the jab) in the next 12 weeks.

The first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was delivered to Guadalajara on Saturday morning, from where they will be distributed across the country.

The next delivery of around 350,000 new doses is due to arrive on Monday.

According to official records, there have been 1.85 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and close to 50,000-related deaths overall in the country.

Italy was the first European country to implement a regional lockdown in early March.

Italian authorities began their vaccination campaign at 7.20 am local time at the Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital in the capital Rome.

The first people to receive the vaccine in Italy were Maria Capobianchi, the biologist in charge of the virology laboratory that in February managed to isolate the coronavirus for the first time, Claudia Alivernini, a nurse, and Omar Altobelli, a social worker.

Alivernini said: “I say this from the heart. We should all get vaccinated, for our loved ones and for our community.”

The first batch of 9,750 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in Rome on Saturday protected by a police escort.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a tweet: ”Today Italy wakes up. It is the Day of the Vaccine. This date will stay with us forever. We start with our healthcare workers and the most vulnerable groups to later extend the possibility to achieve immunity for the whole population and definitively defeat this virus.”

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