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15 Dec, 2020 16:18

EU drugs regulator brings forward meeting on Pfizer’s Covid vaccine amid pressure for pre-Christmas approval

EU drugs regulator brings forward meeting on Pfizer’s Covid vaccine amid pressure for pre-Christmas approval

A meeting to evaluate data for the approval of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is to be held a week earlier than planned, the EU regulator has said, amid pressure for the jab to be rolled out across the 27-nation bloc before Christmas.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday that it has brought forward the meeting of its Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) from December 29 to 21.

The regulator said it made the decision after receiving additional data from Pfizer, but stressed that approval of the vaccine depended on the “robust and complete assessment of [its] quality, safety and efficacy.”

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The medicines agency also said that, once the committee had recommended authorization, the European Commission (EC) would “fast track” its decision-making process in order to authorize the jab across the whole EU and European Economic Area (EEA) within days.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the move, and said in a tweet that it was likely that the first EU citizens would be vaccinated before the end of 2020.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn described the decision as “good news” after previously telling reporters: “Our goal is an approval before Christmas. We want to still start vaccinating this year.”

His Italian counterpart Roberto Speranza also said on Tuesday he hoped the EMA could approve the Pfizer jab earlier than expected, so it could be rolled out to EU countries “as soon as possible.”

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The vaccine, developed jointly by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, is already being administered in a handful of countries, including the US, Canada and the UK, which was the first state to approve it.

The EMA previously said it was pursuing a full one-year conditional licensing of the vaccine, as opposed to the emergency use authorisations granted by regulators in the US, Canada, and UK, which don’t require licensing.

“Whilst speed is of the essence, safety is our number one priority,” EMA boss Emer Cooke said last week.

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