UK approves Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine – rollout from Tuesday
The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use.
The government says the jab, which has been given the green light by independent health regulator MHRA, will be rolled out across the UK from early next week.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland’s first doses will be administered on Tuesday.
Studies have shown the jab is 95% effective and works in all age groups.
The government has secured 40 million doses of the vaccine, which needs to be refrigerated at -70C (-94F).
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Ten million doses are expected in the UK by the end of the year and patients need two each.
Care home residents and their carers will be first in line to be vaccinated, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has confirmed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the approval of the vaccine is “fantastic news”.
He added: “The MHRA – the fiercely independent regulator – has clinically authorised the vaccine for rollout.
“The NHS stands ready to make that happen so from early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against COVID-19 here in this country.
“As we know from earlier announcements, this vaccine is effective, the MHRA have approved it as clinically safe and we have a vaccine, so it’s very good news.”
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock said the roll-out will be “one of the biggest civilian logistical efforts that we’ve faced as a nation”.
He added: “It will be difficult. There will be challenges and complications, but I know that the NHS is equal to the task.”
Mr Hancock also said today there would be “three modes of delivery” of the vaccine.
“The first is hospitals themselves, which of course we’ve got facilities like this,” he said.
“Fifty hospitals across the country are already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s approved, so that can now happen.
“Also vaccination centres, which will be big centres where people can go to get vaccinated. They are being set up now.”
Mr Hancock said the military are involved in the logistics of the vaccine rollout and 800,000 jabs are being brought from Belgium.
It was not all positive for Mr Hancock today, however, as he faced backlash for claiming Brexit helped the UK become the first country in the world to have a clinically authorised COVID vaccine, while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has yet to do the same for the EU.
Meanwhile, the Welsh government is “currently exploring ways” to get the vaccine to care home residents, with Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton saying there were “particular challenges” due to its low storage temperature.
An effective vaccine is seen as the main weapon in fighting the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.4 million lives worldwide.
Pfizer and BioNTech reported final trial results on 18 November that showed its vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, with no major safety concerns.
Sky News’ science correspondent Thomas Moore said: “It’s going to be tricky to rollout but nevertheless this is really good news.
“It’s two doses per person so that’s an awful lot of people who could be vaccinated.
“Because it needs to be stored at -70C (-94F), it’s going to be shipped in dry ice to hospital centres that have these special cryo-freezers.”