The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and will administer the jab as early as next week to priority patients.
Britain’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out, reports the BBC.
The first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. He added people should wait to be contacted by the NHS.
Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.
But because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, as required, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there – for care home staff, NHS staff and patients – so none of the vaccine is wasted, explains BBC.
They added the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span an entire decade.
The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the free jab which is adequate to vaccinate 20 million people.
The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made, by Pfizer in Belgium, Mr Hancock said, with the first load next week and then “several millions” throughout December. However, the majority of the rollout will be next year, he added. “2020 has been just awful and 2021 is going to be better,” said Mr Hancock.
“I’m confident now, with the news today, that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better. And we’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy.”
Taking to Twitter, Mr Hancock shared a patriotic infographic celebrating the announcement and tweeted: :”Thanks to the brilliant work of @Pfizer, @BioNTech_Group, @MHRAgovuk & the whole United Kingdom, we’ve secured 40 million doses of the vaccine approved this morning
The NHS stands ready to begin rolling-out this #coronavirus vaccine from next week.”
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 2, 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”
How will it be rolled out?
The vaccine will not be compulsory and there will be three ways of vaccinating people across the UK:
- Vaccination centres “a bit like the Nightingales project and including some of the Nightingales”, said Mr Hancock
- In the community, with GPs and pharmacists.
In a quote from the BBC, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, said the health service was preparing for “the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history”.
But experts said people still need to remain vigilant and follow rules to stop the virus spreading – including with social distancing, face masks and self-isolation.
“We can’t lower our guard yet,” said the government’s chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty.