The United Kingdom has become the first Western nation to approve a coronavirus vaccine, recently giving the green light to BioNTech and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Westminster announced that the vaccine would be made available next week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling it “fantastic news.”
When Will the Vaccine be Available in the UK?
Great Britain is the first Western European country to allow vaccinations against the novel coronavirus. The British health authority MHRA issued the world’s first emergency approval for the corona vaccine from the Mainz, Germany-based pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer on Wednesday. The vaccine will be available from next week according to the Ministry of Health in London.
The vaccination would allow a return to normal. BioNTech and Pfizer said the approval was “a groundbreaking scientific milestone”. It was the “world’s first emergency authorization of a vaccine tested in a phase 3 study” against the novel coronavirus.
Pfizer: ‘Historic Moment in the Fight Against COVID-19’
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla spoke of a “historic moment in the fight against COVID-19,” while BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin said that with the start of the vaccination program, “we will hopefully see a reduction in the number of people in the high-risk population who are hospitalized must be treated.”
Pfizer and BioNTech said they have agreed to deliver 40 million doses of vaccine in the UK; the doses are to be delivered gradually. According to British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, nursing homes and health and nursing staff residents are to be vaccinated first. At the beginning of next week, the first 800,000 doses should be administered, and by the end of the year, there should be one million doses.
Johnson: Public Should Remain Cautious
“Help is on its way,” Hancock told the BBC this morning. At the same time, he warned that it was still too early to give the all-clear and called on the population to continue to adhere to the rules for protection against the virus. Johnson made a similar statement. Although the vaccination could potentially allow a return to the old way of life and “get the economy going again”, the public must remain cautious, he emphasized.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) previously announced that it would probably need four weeks to approve the first coronavirus vaccine. If the vaccine from the companies BioNTech and Pfizer turns out to be safe and effective, a decisive meeting should be convened by December 29 at the latest, the agency said on Tuesday.
How Effective is the New Vaccine?
For the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine, an extensive series of tests showed effectiveness of 95 percent protection against COVID-19, according to the company. The vaccine worked similarly well across all age groups and other demographic differences and showed practically no severe side effects, the companies said after the final analysis. The vaccination protection for people who are over 65 years old is over 94 percent.
These positive results relate to protection against coronavirus. It is not yet clear to what extent the vaccine also protects against infection and possible transmission of the virus.
The Global Race for a Vaccine
For the vaccine from the US company Moderna, the testing process will probably last until January 12, it said.
This schedule puts a damper on high expectations in EU countries that vaccinations with the BioNTech / Pfizer product could possibly start as early as mid-December. Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said that with the information now available, it could be assumed that the vaccinations could start at the turn of the year.
Meanwhile, the global race to develop a vaccine is on the verge of breaking records. Researchers worldwide are testing 57 vaccines in clinical trials, and nearly 100 more are being tested on animals or cells. Only China and Russia have approved vaccines without waiting for the results of late-stage studies known as phase 3, which experts say poses serious risks.
The implications of the authorization for the UK, meanwhile, goes well beyond healthcare. While returning to normalcy and saving lives has priority, being the first Western country to authorize a coronavirus vaccine – even beating the US and the European Union – will also provide significant prestige for Great Britain