London – The UK became the first country on Wednesday to officially approve the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines, a huge symbolic milestone in the fight against the pandemic.
The first vaccinations are scheduled to be introduced next week, the government said, although the first 800,000 doses will cover a relatively small number of health workers and the elderly.
The vaccine has been approved much faster than any other in history, with lightning-fast development in excess of the 15-20 years typically required to develop this type of drug.
Politically, it goes unnoticed that the British regulators made this decision in front of their American counterparts, indicating that various officials and businesses around the world are trying to find the right balance between speed, safety and efficiency.
President Donald Trump has accused the Food and Drug Administration of pulling his foot, while the FDA says it simply takes time for the right call. FDA regulators will discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, which will be available across the UK, the British government said on Wednesday.
“We used to say that if a vaccine is developed, things will improve in 2021, and now we can say that when this vaccine is introduced, things will get better,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC.
Nearly 1.5 million people have died from the virus worldwide, more than 271,000 in the United States and nearly 60,000 in the United Kingdom
The UK has one of the highest per capita Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, behind only Italy, Spain, Peru and Belgium.
The vaccination of Pfizer’s US pharmaceutical giant and German partner BioNTech is one of three leading riders that have delivered promising results in recent weeks. In clinical trials, it was 95 percent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19.
“This license is a goal we’ve been working on since we first stated that science will win,” Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said in a press release following the UK decision.
But even a rich country like the UK will not have an easy time introducing this vaccine.
The UK has prescribed 40 million doses – enough for up to a third of the population, given it is a two-shot treatment. One of these has not yet been delivered and most of them will not arrive until next year.
When the first batch arrives from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium, it will contain about 800,000 servings, Hancock told the BBC. These are provided to health workers, home staff and residents, as well as people over the age of 80.
By the end of the year, the supply is likely to rise to “millions,” Hancock said, deliberately refusing to give a specific figure because “it will determine how fast Pfizer can produce in Belgium.”
Each time you submit a new batch, you must re-examine it with the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency.
Recordings should be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, which requires special dry ice freezers that are not available in many doctor’s offices or even hospitals. According to Pfizer-BioNTech, the vaccine can be kept at normal refrigerator temperature for the last five days.
In the United States, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have filed an application for emergency use with the FDA. The FDA is expected to discuss these vaccines next week and the following week.
The European Union is waiting for more than this, its regulator announced on Tuesday that it will only make a decision on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination until 29 December and Moderna’s until 12 January.