The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be rolled out in the UK starting next week.(REUTERS/ FILE)
The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be rolled out in the UK starting next week.(REUTERS/ FILE)

UK first to approve Covid-19 vaccine; roll-out next week

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with 95% efficacy needs to be initially refrigerated at a temperature of minus 70 to 80 degrees Celsius, and administered in two doses, 21 days apart
By Prasun Sonwalkar | Hindustan Times, London
UPDATED ON DEC 02, 2020 07:02 PM IST

The UK on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve a Covid-19 vaccine - developed by Pfizer and BioNTech - with 800,000 doses due to be rolled out from next week.

The UK’s regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), granted its approval after a thorough analysis of the data that was submitted to it on a rolling basis. Its analysis and decision on other vaccine candidates is expected in the near future.

An official spokesperson said, “The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent 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 vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

The vaccine with 95% efficacy needs to be initially refrigerated at a temperature between minus 70 and 80 degrees Celsius, and administered in two doses, 21 days apart. Since hospitals have the infrastructure, it will be initially given to hospital staff and to vulnerable care-home residents.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with 800,000 doses arriving from the company’s production base in Belgium next week.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the development as “fantastic” while a “thrilled” health secretary Matt Hancock reiterated his belief that normalcy would return by April.

Johnson said, “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

Hancock, however, sounded a note of caution, asking Britons to see through the winter months by following restrictions until vaccines are rolled out on a wide scale.

“We can’t lower our guard yet,” said Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer.

Arrangements are being made by the National Health Service (NHS) for mass vaccination across the UK in the near future.

The official spokesperson said, “The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large-scale vaccination programmes, and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.

“To aid the success of the vaccination programme, it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area, so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed.”

The MHRA is currently analysing data from trials of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines. The former is expected to be the mainstay of countering the virus in the UK, India and elsewhere due to its low cost and logistical ease.

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