The United Kingdom has become the first Western country to license a vaccine against COVID, opening the way for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to begin next week for those most at risk, write Sarah Boseley and Josh Halliday for The Guardian.
The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority(MHRA). It is expected that 800,000 doses will be available in the UK next week.
The United States, which has ordered 100m doses, and Europe, which has bought 200m, are expected to approve the vaccine within weeks.
The MHRA was given power to approve the vaccine by the government under special regulations before 1 January, when it will become fully responsible for medicines authorisation in the United Kingdom after Brexit.
The first doses of the vaccine would arrive in the coming days, said the company. The UK has bought 40m doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to have 95% efficacy in its final trials.
According to The Guardian, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The government has today accepted the recommendation from the MHRA to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use.
“This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable. The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the first doses would be issued to the most vulnerable people. The UK would have 800,000 doses available next week, reports The Guardian.
“This is fantastic news. The MHRA, the fiercely independent regulator, has clinically authorised the vaccine for rollout. The NHS stands ready to make that happen,” he told Sky News.
“From early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against COVID-19 here in this country. The MHRA have approved it as clinically safe and we have a vaccine, so it’s very good news.”
Hancock said rolling out the vaccine across the UK would be “challenging” because it needed to be kept at -70C. A network of 50 hospitals was ready to deliver the first jabs, and specialist vaccination centres were being built, The Guardian reports.
He said the vaccine would also be available from some GPs and pharmacists if they had cold storage facilities.
Hancock told BBC News each person would need two jabs and the “bulk” of the 40m order was expected to be available in the new year.
Older people and those in care homes, including staff, would be first in line for immunisation “and then it essentially comes down the age range”, Hancock said. NHS staff were also high on that priority list and also the clinically extremely vulnerable, he said.
He added: “The goal will be to vaccinate through the NHS right across the UK as rapidly as the company can manufacture. It will help save lives. Once we’ve protected the most vulnerable it will help us all get back to normal and back to some of the things that we love.”
Read the full story in The Guardian by clicking the link below:UK approves Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for rollout next week