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Moderna COVID-19 vaccine approved in Europe

VEGHEL: A second COVID-19 vaccine won regulatory approval in Europe on Wednesday and the Netherlands belatedly started its vaccination campaign as European countries accelerated a patchy drive to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Medicines Authority’s (EMA) green light for Moderna’s vaccine was a big boost for Europe’s hopes of containing a disease that has infected more than 85 million people globally and killed nearly 1.9 million since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

The vaccine, which has been approved for use on people aged over 18, still requires the approval of the European Commission, but the European Union executive is expected to give it the go-ahead soon.

“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said Emer Cooke, EMA executive director.

The EMA gave conditional marketing approval two weeks ago for a similar vaccine from U.S. company Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been given to hundreds of thousands of Europeans since rollout began a week ago but the campaign has been uneven, with officials in Germany and France frustrated at the slow rate of progress.

The Moderna vaccine will help accelerate vaccination campaigns in Europe as concerns grow about two more infectious variants of the virus, detected in South Africa and Britain, which have driven a surge in cases..

Countries where governments are facing public criticism include the Netherlands, which started its vaccination drive on Wednesday, a week after many other EU member states.

DuSanna Elkadiri, a 39-year-old nurse who looks after dementia patients at a care home in the south of the country, received a shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

“This is the beginning of the end of this crisis,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said at a brief ceremony.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government had been preparing for a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca to be approved first, and this had reduced the Dutch authorities’ flexibility.

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