Pfizer / BioNTech Covid vaccine approved for use in UK to be rolled out next week.
‘Historic moment’ opens way for mass immunization with first doses to arrive in coming days.
The UK has become the first western country to license a vaccine against Covid, opening the way for mass immunization with the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to begin in those most at risk next week.
The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), ahead of decisions by the US and Europe. 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 authorization in the UK after Brexit.
The first doses of the vaccine will 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.
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 immunization 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. "
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said the first doses would be issued to the most vulnerable people. The UK will have 800,000 doses available next week, he said.
“This is fantastic news. The MHRA, the fiercely independent regulator, has clinically authorized the vaccine for rollout. The NHS stands ready to make that happen, ”he told Sky News.
“From early next week we will start the program 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, he said, and specialist vaccination centers were being built.
He said the vaccine would also be available from some GPs and pharmacists if they have cold storage facilities.