EU Gets Its First Vaccine Shipments, Hungary Administers First Doses

Hungary has started administering the vaccine, the first in a coordinated rollout for 27 European Union countries.
Posted at 3:54 PM, Dec 26, 2020

The first vaccine shipments have arrived in Europe, and Hungary has already gotten started in administering its first doses.

Doctors and health care workers there started receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Saturday, and Slovakia is expected to follow - getting a jump start as the European Union hopes for a coordinated rollout across its 27 nations Sunday.

The continent has seen at least 16 million infections and contains some of the worst-hit spots of the virus, led by Italy and Spain. 

On the start of the vaccine program, Germany's health minister said, "It gives me the happy Christmas message. This vaccine is the key to defeating this pandemic. It is the key to getting our lives back."

The first shipments will provide vaccinations for fewer than 5,000 people in most countries, before mass vaccination programs begin in January. 

Now each country will decide who get the first doses. France, Germany, and Spain are prioritizing elderly residents as first recipients, while Italy and Poland will start with health personnel working on the front lines of the pandemic. 

The vaccination program is starting as a new, more contagious variant of the virus is spreading in some European countries. The vaccine producer says it's confident it will work against the evolving coronavirus strain but said more studies are needed.