Britain approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. It has jumped ahead of the United States and Europe to become the West’s first country to endorse a vaccine. It said the vaccine should reach the most vulnerable people early next week. Now, the UK becomes the first country to approve the COVID-19 vaccine.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted the medicine authority’s approval as a global win and a ray of hope. The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally. It has hammered the world economy and upended normal life.
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted emergency use approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The vaccine is 95% effective in preventing illness, in record time.
“It’s fantastic,” Johnson said. “The vaccine will begin to be made available across the UK from next week. It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”
The world’s big powers have been racing for a vaccine for months.
The approval of a vaccine for use almost exactly a year since the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. It is a triumph for science, Pfizer boss Albert Bourla and his German biotechnology partner BioNTech.
China has already given emergency approval for three experimental vaccines and has inoculated around 1 million people since July. Russia has been vaccinating frontline workers after approving its Sputnik V shot in August.
But the European Union’s drug regulator said its longer approval process for COVID-19 vaccines was safer.
The US drugmaker said Britain’s emergency use authorization marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. Pfizer announced its vaccine breakthrough on Nov. 9 with stage III clinical trial results.
Britain’s medicines regulator approved the vaccine in record time.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting on December 10 to discuss whether to recommend emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The European Medicines Agency said it could give emergency approval for the shot by December 29.
First in line?
Britain said it would start vaccinating ordinary people early next week. It will get 800,000 doses from Pfizer’s manufacturing center in Belgium. The speed of the rollout depends on how fast Pfizer can manufacture and deliver the vaccine.
Last month that Britain had ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Pfizer has said the shots can be kept in thermal shipping boxes for up to 30 days, from up to 15 days previously guided. Afterwards, the vaccine can be kept at fridge temperatures for up to 5 days.
Other frontrunners in the vaccine race include US biotech firm Moderna. It has said its shot is 94% successful in late-stage clinical trials. Moderna and Pfizer have developed their shots using new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
AstraZeneca said last month its COVID-19 shot was 70% effective in pivotal trials and could be up to 90% effective.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is in talks with pharmaceutical companies for access to COVID-19 vaccines. Health Ministry has proposed Prime Minister Imran Khan to set aside $100 million to purchase doses. The country is seeing a deadly second wave of the virus.
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