EU approves Covid vaccine, Irish labs look for evidence of new strain here

by Rachel Darcy

A Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use across the EU, with Ireland expected to get over 2 million doses of the vaccine.

A rollout of the Pfizer/BionTech jab is set to start by next Tuesday, December 29, at the latest.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said that the jab has met its standards for quality, safety and efficacy, with the decision following trials involving more than 40,000 people.

In an online press conference, EMA chief Emer Cooke said: “I am delighted to announce that the EMA scientific committee met today and recommended a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

“Today’s positive news is an important step forward in our fight against this pandemic, which has caused suffering and hardship for so many.

“We have achieved this milestone thanks to the dedication of scientists, doctors, developers and trial volunteers as well as many experts from all EU Member States.

“Our thorough evaluation means that we can confidently assure EU citizens of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine and that it meets necessary quality standards.

“However, our work does not stop here. We will continue to collect and analyse data on the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine to protect people taking the vaccine in the EU.”

The next step will be the European Commission providing approval for the vaccine, with President Ursula von der Leyen saying that the Commission will act quickly. The decision is expected this evening.

It is also understood that there are Irish labs examining recent cases of Covid-19 here, to see if there is any evidence that the new strain of the virus has arrived in Ireland.

The new strain is believed to be 70 per cent more transmissible, and has led to increased restrictions in parts of the UK. Recently confirmed cases in Ireland are being examined by lab technicians to see if the strain has travelled here, with Professor of Immunology at Trinity College Luke O’Neill saying it most likely has.

This comes as the 7 day incidence rate amongst 19 to 44 year olds has doubled in just 10 days. However, Emer Cooke of the EMA has said there is no evidence that the vaccine will not work against the new strain.

In today’s press conference, Cooke said: “At this moment, there is no evidence to suggest this vaccine will not work against the new variant.”

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