Approval paves way for first coronavirus vaccines next week
By Rob Freeman | 2nd December 2020
The first coronavirus vaccinations are expected to be given next week after the UK's medicines regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
The vaccine by Pfizer, whose UK boss Ben Osborn went to school in Ross-on-Wye, and German firm BioNTech has become the first in the world to be approved.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the first 800,000 doses will be available from next week with care home residents and staff the first to receive the vaccine, followed by over-80s and NHS and care workers.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which requires two doses per person, with up to 10 million expected throughout December.
Mr Hancock told the BBC: "2020 has been just awful and 2021 is going to be better.
"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."
Mr Osborn, Pfizer's UK country manager, said the company was looking to provide 800,000 doses to the NHS this week and played down concerns about the practicalities of storing the vaccine at extreme low temperatures.
He said: "It's an incredible moment for society and I really think this is now a turning point in the fight against this pandemic, both in the UK and across the globe.
"I couldn't be prouder right now.
"Once the vaccine reaches the site, it can be stored under refrigerated conditions for up to five days."
The vaccine has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency who insist no corners have been cut to speed up the vaccine.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: "We have carried out a rigorous scientific assessment of all the available evidence of quality, safety and effectiveness. The public's safety has always been at the forefront of our minds - safety is our watchword.
"I'm really pleased to say that the UK is now one step closer to providing a safe and effective vaccine to help in the fight against Covid-19 - a virus that has affected each and every one of us in some way - and in helping to save lives."
She continued: "We are globally recognised for requiring high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine.
"Our expert scientists and clinicians worked tirelessly, around the clock, carefully, scientifically, robustly and rigorously poring over hundreds of pages and tables of data, methodically reviewing the data.
"Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They save millions of lives worldwide.
The vaccine is provided in two doses 21 days apart with full protection seven days after the second dose.
The order of people who will receive the vaccine or those from AstraZeneca/Oxford University and Moderna, which are awaiting approval or undergoing trials, has been set by Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The order of groups, which the JCVI said covers 90-99 per cent of those at risk of dying from Covid-19, is:
- Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers.
- All those 80 years of age and over. Frontline health and social care workers.
- All those 75 years of age and over.
- All those 70 years of age and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
- All those 65 years of age and over.
- All individuals aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.
- All those 60 years of age and over.
- All those 55 years of age and over.
- All those 50 years of age and over.
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