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Europe rolls out vaccine shots in war against Covid-19

Europe on Sunday rolled out a huge coronavirus vaccination drive, with the aged and healthcare staff getting priority, in the war against the deadly pandemic which has killed 1.7 million people across the world.

While in Spain it was 96-year-old Araceli Hidalgo who was the first person to get a vaccine shot, in Italy it was 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini who was among the first three medical staff to get the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The 27-nation European Union has signed deals with vaccine manufacturers for more than two billion doses and has plans to inoculate all adults in 2021. Since the task being carried out on a massive scale these countries have eased rules to allow more healthcare workers to give the vaccine shots.

“We are starting to turn the page on a difficult year,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission which is coordinating the programme, said in a tweet. “Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”

After European governments were criticised for failing to work together to counter the spread of the virus in early 2020, the goal this time is to ensure that there is equal access to the vaccines
across the region.

The distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine presents its own challenges as it has to be stored in deep freezers at temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius.

Apart from hospitals and care homes, sports auditoriums and convention centres will also be used for the mass inoculation drive across Europe. The EU vaccination drive follows a similar exercise already underway in Britain and Switzerland.

The vaccination campaign also comes amidst fears over a new more virulent variant of the virus surfacing in the UK. However, scientists say the vaccines will work against the new virus as well as it has the same protein structure.