Sharmili Mallick

Madrid: Spain will begin a vaccination programme against the novel coronavirus from December 27 onwards, confirmed the country's Health Minister Salvador Illa on Friday.

The programme will first administer the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine, which will begin arriving in the country on December 26, reports Xinhua news agency.

"If Europe has agreed that vaccination begins in a coordinated manner, in Spain we are going to start the first possible day," Illa said at a press conference on Friday.

The Health Minister said that he is waiting for European authorities to confirm the number of doses that Spain will receive, but promised that it will be "an equitable distribution".

Illa also expressed his hope that around "20 million citizens" will have been inoculated by May or June 2021.

"This means the start of the end of the pandemic, it is not the end of the pandemic, we will have to keep our guard up, but it is the start of the end," the Minister added.

As of Saturday, Spain has reported a total of 1,797,236 coronavirus cases and 48,926 deaths.

In a related development, Germany's Minister of Health Jens Spahn has announced a detailed plan for the country's Covid-19 vaccination campaign, saying its first goal is to protect the most vulnerable.

All citizens over 80 years of age as well as residents and staff of nursing homes would be among the first to get vaccinated, Xinhua news agency quoted Spahn as saying at a press conference on Friday.

As the vaccination of the first risk group would take at least one to two months before the vaccination program in Germany could be expanded, Spahn asked the public to be patient.

"This means for all of us that there still is a long winter ahead. We will have to live with this virus for a long time," the Health Minister added.

The coronavirus vaccine produced by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and US company Pfizer is expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency next week.

If approved before Christmas, vaccinations in Germany could begin on December 27, according to the government.

Spahn has repeatedly stressed that there would not be enough vaccines at the beginning, making it necessary to prioritize.

By the end of January, 3 to 4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses would be made available across Germany, according to the Ministry of Health.

The doses would be distributed to the federal states according to their share of the population.

For the entire first quarter, the Ministry is expecting to provide 11 to 13 million vaccine doses in Germany.

As of Saturday, Germany's overall Covid-19 caseload and death toll stood at 1,469,991 and 25,413, respectively.

(With IANS Inputs)

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