Updated 7pm with EU's approval

The EU formally approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday after it was given the greenlight as safe by the European Medicines Agency, the bloc's regulator.

"Based on this scientific assessment, we proceeded to authorise it for the European Union market," EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video statement.

"As we have promised, this vaccine will be available for EU countries at the same time on the same conditions," she said, adding that the rollout would begin on December 27.

Earlier the EMA said it had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for inoculations to start across the EU within days.

The Amsterdam-based regulator dramatically moved the decision on the jab ahead from December 29, following pressure to accelerate the process from Germany and other EU states.

"I am delighted to announce that the EMA scientific committee met today and recommended a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech," EMA chief Emer Cooke told an online press conference.

"Our scientific opinion paves the way for the first marketing authorisation in the EU," she said, adding that it would cover all 27 countries.

"It is a significant step forward in the fight against this pandemic that is causing suffering and hardship," she said.

"This is really a historic scientific achievement, within less than a year a vaccine will have been developed and authorised against this disease."

The clamour for action grew as Britain and the United States have already started giving their citizens the vaccine developed by US giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech under emergency national rules.

'No evidence Pfizer vaccine won't work against new strain'

Cooke added that it appeared the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would protect against a new strain of the coronavirus found mainly in Britain.

"At this moment there is no evidence to suggest this vaccine will not work against the new variant," she added.

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