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The UK’s medical regulator has become the first in the world to authorize use of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination will begin early next week.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the governor accepted the recommendation from the UK’s independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve the vaccine. “This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccube has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” the spokesperson said.
The agency will next decide the order for who receives the vaccination, with priority going to “care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
“To aid the success of the vaccination program, it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed,” the spokesperson said.
England’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that vaccination would begin “early next week”
The news came as England moved from a national lockdown to a revised three-tier system.
The UK has ordered 40 million of the vaccine doses, which is enough for up to a third of the population.
Initial data shows the vaccine is 94% effective in protecting people over 65 years old from coronavirus and clinical trials have not reported any serious safety concerns
Pfizer said it would be able to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion next year.
The vaccine poses logistical and supply chain problems as it requires cold chain refrigeration at -70C.