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EU: 1st Vaccinations by Christmas      11/25 06:23


   BRUSSELS (AP) -- A top European Union official said Wednesday that the first 
citizens in the 27 nation bloc could be vaccinated against the coronavirus by 
Christmas, but she warned that member countries must urgently prepare their 
logistical chains for the rollout of hundreds of millions of doses of the 

   Claiming that "there's finally light at the end of the tunnel," European 
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers that "the first 
European citizens might already be vaccinated before the end of December."

   The commission, the EU's executive arm, has agreements with six potential 
vaccine suppliers and is working on a seventh contract. The deals allow it to 
purchase over 800 million doses, more than the population of the bloc, which 
stands at around 460 million people.

   On Tuesday, Brussels said it would sign a contract for up to 160 million 
doses of the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna, which the 
company says appears to be 94.5% effective, according to its preliminary data.

   But von der Leyen said that while vaccines are important, "what counts are 
vaccinations. "

   "Member states must get ready now. We're talking about millions of syringes, 
we're talking about cold chains, we're talking about organizing vaccination 
centers, we're talking about trained personnel that is there. You name it. All 
this has to be prepared," she warned.

   Still, Von der Leyen urged European citizens to continue respecting 
restrictions, even as the measures harm businesses, further damage 
coronavirus-ravaged economies and put people through social and mental hardship.

   "With nearly 3,000 deaths a day, COVID-19 was the number one cause of death 
in the EU last week. Hospitals remain under stress, and in some regions some 
intensive care units are overwhelmed," she said.

   "We must learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes. Relaxing 
too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," von der Leyen said, 
adding that "this Christmas will be different, and yes, it will be quieter."

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