The UK has taken a major step by becoming the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use.
The move comes a day after Pfizer/BioNTech submitted their approval applications to the European Medicines Agency (EMA),
British regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe for rollout.
The UK has already ordered 40m doses – enough to vaccinate 20m people, with two shots each. Around 10m doses should be available soon.
According to BBC, immunizations could start within days for people in high priority groups.
Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the U.K. and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision expected as early as next week.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called the U.K. decision “a historic moment.”
“We are focusing on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world,” Bourla said in a statement.
“This is an extraordinarily strong protection,” Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s CEO, recently told The Associated Press.
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.
The companies also reported no serious side effects, although vaccine recipients may experience temporary pain and flu-like reactions immediately after injections.
British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned: “we must first navigate a hard winter” of restrictions to try to curb the virus until there’s enough vaccine to go around.