London – The United Kingdom (U.K.) is the first nation to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. This is a landmark moment in the history of the coronavirus pandemic. This approval creates a path for the first doses to be rolled out in the coming week.
U.K. regulators granted an emergency authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine to pharma giants Pfizer and BioNTech. The U.K.’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock says “help is on the way.”
This announcement means that the U.K. has moved past the U.S. and the European Union in the race to approve the vaccine. The U.K. has ordered 40 million doses, enough to vaccinate at least 20 million people. Hancock confirmed that “an initial 800,000 doses would be delivered from Pfizer’s facilities in Belgium to the U.K. next week. Hancock added there would be “many millions more (doses) before the end of the year.”
Phase 3 of the Pfizer vaccine is said to be 95 percent effective, even in older adults. Additionally, the vaccine has no serious safety issues. Hancock confirmed that the health department approval process follows months of rigorous clinical trials by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA now concludes that Pfizer has met its strict standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness.
How the Vaccine Rolls Out
Pfizer’s vaccine reflects a fresh approach to manufacturing vaccines that use pieces of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA). Messenger RNA prompts the body to make synthetic pieces of the coronavirus. Then, the mRNA stimulates a response action from the body’s immune system.
Messenger RNA’s biggest challenge is its fragility. The vaccine must be kept in special storage equipment with extra cold temperatures. Unlike AstraZeneca, which is yet to be approved, Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
With the vaccine’s distribution in the U.K., priority will be given to specific groups. Elderly people in care homes, caregivers, health workers, and others at risk will be on top of the priority list. Later, the vaccine’s availability will filter down to the general public. Older people in the general population are next in line followed by those with underlying health conditions.
More to come as the story unfolds
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