BRITAIN on Wednesday(2) became the first country in the world to approve the Covid-19 vaccine developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech , and said it will be rolled out 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.
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson said it was “fantastic” that the country’s medicines regulator had formally authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use, a move that he said would get the economy moving again.
“It’s fantastic that the MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19,” he said on Twitter. “The vaccine will begin to be made available across the UK from next week.
“It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said it would take until spring to fully vaccinate the vulnerable population who wish to receive the jab.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said he was very proud that the UK had become the first place in the world to have a clinically authorised coronavirus vaccine, after its regulator approved the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
“I’m obviously absolutely thrilled with the news. I’m very proud that the UK is the first place in the world to have a clinically authorised vaccine ready to go,” he told BBC TV.
Britain’s vaccine committee will decide which priority groups will get the jab first such as care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and US biotech firm Moderna have reported preliminary findings of more than 90 per cent effectiveness – an unexpectedly high rate – in trials of their vaccines, which are both based on new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
Pfizer said Britain’s emergency use authorization marks 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 UK,” said CEO Albert Bourla.
“As we anticipate further authorisations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world.”
Danny Altmann, Professor of Immunology at Imperial College London, said: “Exciting news keeps coming, but this really is momentous. Nobody knew how the battle to find effective vaccines would pan out. Now, less than 11 months from the first characterisation of the virus sequence, we have the first emergency approval for use of a really effective vaccine. Truly heroic.
“I don’t think we should get too hung up on ‘the race’ and this as the 1st approval. Over the next several weeks we’ll likely see a number of licenses granted- and we do need them all to get speedily out of this mess”
A vaccine is seen as the best chance for the world to get back to some semblance of normality amid a global pandemic which has killed nearly 1.5 million people and upended the global economy.