The European Commission declared that the entire bloc would start the inoculation operation from Sunday
A 101-year-old woman in an elderly care home became the first person in Germany to be inoculated against coronavirus on Saturday, a day before the official vaccination campaign was scheduled to get under way in both Germany and the EU.
Edith Kwoizalla was one of around 40 residents and 10 staff in a care home in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to receive a jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the home's manager Tobias Krueger told AFP.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became the first to get the go-ahead for use in the West, when Britain gave its approval on December 2.
As other nations from the United States to Saudi Arabia to Singapore followed suit, Germany impatiently prodded the EU's drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency, to bring forward its decision from December 29.
The EMA finally gave its green light more than a week early, on December 21.
On the same night, the European Commission declared that the entire bloc would start the inoculation operation from Sunday, December 27.
"For us, every day counts," said Immo Kramer, a vaccination centre official for the region, told MDR public television.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of vaccine doses were delivered to the regional health authorities, who then distributed them to local vaccination centres.
Elderly care home residents, people aged 80 and over and care staff will be the first to get the jab.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn called it a "day of hope."
"The vaccine is an essential key in conquering the pandemic," he told a news conference.
"It is the key that will allow us to take back our lives," but he warned that getting everyone immunised would be a "long-haul" effort.
Germany, which appeared to fare relatively well in the first wave of coronavirus in the spring, has been hit hard by a second wave.
According to the latest data compiled by the Robert Koch Institute, a total 14,455 new infections have been reported in the past 24 hours, and 240 new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities so far to 29,422.
96-year-old becomes first in Spain to vaccinated
Meanwhile, in Spain, 96-year-old living in a care home became the first person in the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television.
She felt "nothing" from the shot, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez said with a smile after being injected.
With her short white hair, the pensioner living in the Los Olmos retirement home in Guadalajara got up slowly after pulling on her black jacket and walked off using a frame for support.
Carer Monica Tapias followed as the second Spaniard to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The Los Olmos home was picked to kick off the country's inoculation campaign because it sits near a Pfizer storage depot, where vaccines were delivered from Belgium Saturday ahead of nationwide distribution.
No cases of Covid-19 have so far been detected among the staff or residents.
"It's a great source of pride and a great satisfaction for us, we're representing all the retirement homes in Spain," director Marina Vadillo said on Thursday.
After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Monday, the way is open for injections across the 27-member bloc.