In a significant development, the United Kingdom (UK) on Wednesday (December 2) became the first country in the Western world to approve the use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The British government said that the vaccine will be rolled out for use from early next week.
"The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use," the government said, adding, "The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week," reported Reuters.
It is learnt that the vaccine committee constituted by the British government has been tasked to prepare a list of priority groups which will get the jab of Pfizer vaccine first. The priority groups include care home residents, health and care staff, the older people and those who are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
It may be recalled that Pfizer-BioNTech had announced over 90% effectiveness in trials of its vaccines. The company had made the announcement few days ago on the basis of new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the programme would begin early next week and hospitals across the country are ready to launch the vaccination program.
"Help is on its way. The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19. The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week. The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply," he tweeted.
Help is on its way.
The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19.
The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 2, 2020
Pfizer has welcomed the decision saying the emergency use authorization of coronavirus vaccine by the British government is a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.
"This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.,” said CEO Albert Bourla.
"As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world," he added.