A COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has just been approved for use in the UK, which is now the first western country to embark on immunisation against the disease.
The vaccine is 95% effective and Pfizer said the first doses will be handed out in a few days. The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, enough for around two thirds of its population.
“This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” a spokesperson for the British Department of Health and Social Care said.
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
While the vaccine is still awaiting approval in the US and the EU, the most at-risk people in the UK will be able to get their shots very, very soon.
The people at the top of the list to receive their jab are nursing home residents and staff. After that, the focus will be on people over 80 and healthcare workers.
“Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19,” Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said.
“This authorisation 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 UK.”
However, the UK (and the world) is far from being in the clear just yet.
Pfizer and BioNTech said their combined manufacturing capacity could produce around 50 million doses by the end of the year. That’s not enough for everyone in the UK, and some of those doses will also be allocated to the US if the anticipated approval over there does go through.
By the end of 2021, the companies reckon they can produce around 1.3 billion doses, which is huge, but still nowhere near enough for everyone in the world.
So, vaccine or not, we’re still in for quite a few more months of… all this.