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Spain expects to start COVID-19 vaccination days after EMA approval

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Spain expects to start vaccinating people against the coronavirus by Jan. 4 or 5 if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives the green light to a vaccine on Dec. 29, health minister Salvador Illa said on Monday.

Speaking at a separate event, health emergency coordinator Fernando Simon said the rollout could begin even earlier if the approval comes more quickly.

"In a short time we will start vaccinating, hopefully by the end of the year," he told reporters at a news conference.

The health ministry plans to vaccinate elderly residents and staff in nursing homes first, then health workers and other vulnerable people.

The EMA received data from the large-scale trials of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Dec. 1 and said it would decide on possible conditional approval of the vaccine by Dec. 29 "at the latest".

Britain, the United States and Canada have already begun rolling out the vaccine.

A total of 21,309 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Spain since Friday, bringing the cumulative caseload to 1.75 million, official data showed, in line with daily increases logged in the past week. The overall death toll climbed by 193 to 47,624.

The number of infections recorded each day has retreated steadily from highs of more than 24,000 reached in October, when Spain imposed a second state of emergency, to fewer than 10,000 lately.

While the incidence of cases ticked up to 194 per 100,000 people on Monday from Friday's 190, Simon said Spain still had one of the lowest rates of infection in Europe, acknowledging though that the decline in new infections appears to have stagnated.

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