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Ursula von der Leyen


The EU is launching a co-ordinated mass vaccination to fight Covid-19, in what the bloc’s top official Ursula von der Leyen says is a “touching moment of unity”.

On December 26, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been delivered to all 27 member states.

Some countries started administering the jabs on the same day, saying they were not prepared to wait another day.

The EU has so far reported more than 335,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

More than 14 million people have been infected, and strict lockdown measures are currently in place in nearly all the member states.

The EU mass vaccination comes as cases of the more contagious variant of the virus are confirmed in several European countries as well as Japan and Canada.

Mass vaccination for the EU’s 446 million people is due to begin in the coming hours.

This comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission authorized the German-US Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The EU has secured contracts for more than two billion vaccine doses from a range of drug companies.

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Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU. The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on December 26: “This really is a happy Christmas message. At this moment, trucks with the first vaccines are on the road all over Europe, all over Germany, in all federal states. Further deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow.

“This vaccine is the crucial key for defeating the pandemic. It’s the key for us getting back our lives.”

Health workers in north-east Germany decided not to wait for December 27 and started immunizing elderly residents of a nursing home in Halberstadt.

The authorities in Slovakia also said they had begun vaccinating.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged his compatriots to get the vaccine: “We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again.”

In Hungary, the first recipient of the vaccine was a doctor at Del-Pest Central Hospital on December 26, the state news agency says.


Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen denies claims she plagiarized parts of her doctoral thesis.

The crowd-sourced plagiarism hunting website VroniPlag Wiki claims to have found “elements of plagiarism” on 27 of the 62 pages of Ursula von der Leyen’s 1990 dissertation.

Ursula von der Leyen said she had asked her university to have her thesis evaluated after she learned of the allegations.

Two previous cabinet ministers have stepped down after plagiarism scandals.

Ursula von der Leyen told German media that it was “not new, that internet activists seek to spread doubts on the dissertations of politicians”.Ursula von der Leyen PhD plagiarism

She found out in August that her doctoral thesis was under scrutiny after a tip-off, she told Westfalenpost, and on the same day contacted Hanover Medical School. She has asked them to have an “expert and neutral” commission examine her dissertation, she said.

Ursula von der Leyen, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, qualified as a doctor in 1987 and was awarded a doctorate in medicine in 1991, according to her website.

She worked as a gynecologist and in public health, and had seven children, before entering politics – initially in the state assembly in Lower Saxony.

Ursula von der Leyen became a federal cabinet minister in Angela Merkel’s first government, in 2005, and has been defense minister since 2013.

Angela Merkel has already lost two cabinet ministers after their respective universities withdrew their doctoral titles following plagiarism claims.

In 2011, then-Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after he was found to have copied large parts of his thesis.

In 2013, Education Minister Annette Schavan was forced to step down after her alma mater withdrew her degree.

However, it is not just conservative German politicians who have fallen victims to plagiarism allegations – Silvana Koch-Mehrin from the liberal FDP resigned as vice-president of the European Parliament in 2011 after claims that she did not properly source her university thesis.

Silvana Koch-Mehrin’s university subsequently stripped her of her doctoral title.