In Europe, vaccination campaigns will start on 27, 28 and 29 December, dates set by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. A huge logistical challenge for the continent, but also a scientific challenge, because all eyes are on the evaluation of the first vaccine, that of the german-American laboratory tandem Pfizer and BioNTech. An assessment that the European Medicines Agency started on 1 December and which it must conclude with a week in advance following political pressure, on Monday 21 December, if all goes well.
It all starts on 21 December with the meeting of the Committee for Medical Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency. It said it hoped to issue a formal opinion “if possible” on Pfizer and BioNTech’s BNT162b2 vaccine, but it maintained the meeting originally scheduled for December 29.
The European Commission will then make the decision to authorise the marketing and thus kick off the supply chain. Pfizer’s largest final filling plant in the world is located in Puurs, Belgian Flanders, and this is where the ballet of refrigerated trucks that will transport the vaccine in dry ice at -80 degrees will start.
With an air sector idling, most of the transportation will be by road to the major hospitals that have the freezers for storage at -70 degrees that this vaccine requires. The European Commission has pre-ordered Pfizer and BioNTech 300 million doses of vaccine for the 27 countries of the European Union, doses that will be distributed in proportion to their population.