In a historic moment, it was announced today that the UK is set to become the first western country to approve the use of a vaccine against Covid-19, as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is to be rolled out for those deemed to be most at risk next week.
A Historic Moment
The news broke early on Wednesday morning and has already started to dominate the front pages of news sites around the world, as it signals a potential end to months of turmoil and strife around the globe.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care stated that the decision comes after the government had accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should be approved for use. According to the government, it “follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.” The statement ended by reminding people to continue to obey their local lockdown restrictions to further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to focus on the delivery of the vaccine.
Speaking to BBC News, the UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that the first doses of the vaccine would arrive in the coming days, and 800,000 doses will be available to administer by next week. Priority will be given to those who are the most vulnerable, whilst a further 40m doses of the virus – enough for 20m people – have also been ordered. The majority of these extra doses are expected to arrive in the New Year.
The decision by the UK to select the Pfizer/BioNTech as their vaccine comes following several rounds of impressive testing results and findings.
The latest trial – which provided two months of information on the safety of the vaccine – revealed that it had an efficacy rate of 95%. Whilst there may be concerns amongst the general public about the speed in which the vaccine was created – only ten months from concept to reality – the trials have indicated that there is little in the way of side effects. Of the 43,000 people in their study, Pfizer/BioNTech noted that no serious safety concerns were observed, with the most severe adverse effects greater than 2% in frequency were fatigue and headache, which affected 3.8% and 2% of those in the trial respectively.
The trials also showed that the vaccine is universally suitable for all. The data exhibited that the virus has equal efficacy amongst both younger and older volunteers, and gender, race and ethnicity also made no difference to the results.
It was initially thought that there would be some challenges when it comes to distributing the vaccine. The vaccine must the kept in super-cool fridges at -70C, but the company maintains that it can be stored for up to five days in fridges at between 2-8C.
Rest of the World
The UK isn’t the only country with their hopes pinned on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The US Food and Drug Administration is due to decide on the vaccine’s approval as early as next week, whilst the European Medicines Agency – the regulatory body for the European Union – is expected to give its approval in mid-December. Pfizer/BioNTech have projected that they could be able to supply as many as 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.
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