COVID-19 vaccines

Coronavirus test

There are currently no authorised vaccines for COVID-19 in EU/EEA countries. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is working hard to ensure that safe and effective vaccines reach the public as soon as possible.


How COVID-19 vaccines will work

COVID-19 vaccines aim to prevent COVID-19 disease by triggering an immune response.

Most COVID-19 vaccines under development are expected to trigger these immune responses to a tiny fragment of SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

When a person receives a COVID-19 vaccine, it will trigger an immune response. If that person is infected by the virus later on, the immune system will recognise the virus.

Because it is already prepared to attack the virus, that person’s immune system will be able to protect them from the virus and from COVID-19 disease.

See more information on How vaccines work.


Development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed following the same legal requirements for quality, safety and efficacy as for all other vaccines.

Like all vaccines, the effects of COVID-19 vaccines are tested first in the laboratory, including in animals, and then in human volunteers.

EMA evaluates COVID-19 vaccines against the same high standards as for all other vaccines before they can be released for use. Read more on the Approval of vaccines in the European Union.

What is different for COVID-19 vaccines is that the speed of development and potential approval is much faster due to the public-health emergency caused by the virus.

EMA is evaluating high-quality applications from companies developing COVID-19 vaccines in the shortest time possible, while ensuring its decisions remain robust. It is doing this by:

  • providing guidance to help developers of COVID-19 vaccines prepare to apply for approval;
  • putting rapid review procedures in place;
  • assessing key data on COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they become available.

At present it is not known when EMA and the European Commission will be able to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine.


Monitoring COVID-19 vaccine safety

As for all vaccines, EMA will continually monitor side effects in people who have received COVID-19 vaccines: see Monitoring vaccine safety and reporting side effects.

EMA will identify and evaluate new information that arises on the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccines promptly, once the vaccines are being used to help control the pandemic.

This will make sure that any possible risks are detected and managed as quickly as possible.


Further information

COVID-19 facts

COVID-19 is the disease associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus that had not been identified in humans prior to December 2019. There are different types of coronaviruses and, although they mostly circulate among animals, some can also infect humans.

Page last updated 11 Nov 2020