Healthcare workers, the elderly and leading politicians have received some of the first vaccines across the bloc to reassure the public that vaccinations are safe.
Europe has launched a huge COVID vaccination campaign, with elderly patients and doctors lining up to take the first vaccines in hopes of curing the pandemic that has crippled economies and killed more than 1.7 million in the world.
The region of 450 million people has secured contracts with a range of suppliers for more than two billion doses of the vaccine and has set a target for all adults to be vaccinated by 2021.
“It didn’t hurt at all,” said Mihaela Anghel, a nurse at the Matei Bals Institute in Bucharest who was the first person to be vaccinated in Romania.
“Open your eyes and take the vaccine.”
In Rome, Italy, five doctors and nurses wearing white scrubs sat in a semicircle at Spallanzani Infectious Disease Hospital to receive their doses.
“The message is a message of hope, confidence and an invitation to share this choice,” said one of the recipients, Dr Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, who heads the Spallanzani virology laboratory and was part of the team. which isolated the virus in early February.
“There is nothing to worry about.”
Domenico Arcuri, extraordinary commissioner for the outbreak, said it was significant that the first Italian vaccine doses were given in Spallanzani, where a Chinese couple visiting from Wuhan tested positive in January and became the first case confirmed from Italy.
The numbers vaccinated in the early days with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are largely symbolic and it will be months before enough people are considered protected to consider a return to normal after the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the first cases of a new variant of the virus that has spread rapidly around London and southern England have now been detected in France and Spain.
The new variant has caused European countries, the United States and China to impose new travel restrictions on people coming from Britain.
Germany BioNTech said it was convinced its coronavirus vaccine worked against the new UK variant, but added that more studies were needed to be completely certain.