UK gives green signal to Pfizer vaccine; World’s first to approve COVID-19 shots

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Britain has taken the recognition of being the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine paving the way for a mass inoculation.

The UK government has accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for widespread usage.

The mass trials conducted by Pfizer-BioNTech show 95 percent efficacy in protecting people against COVID-19. The shots have been tested on 43,500 people across six countries and no safety concerns were raised, which makes it safe to roll out.

The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week and immunization will start within days for people on high priority lists. 

The country has already secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is enough to inoculate 20 million people, with two shots each. About 10 million shots are expected to be available by the end of this year, with the first doses arriving in the UK in the coming days.

With this approval, Pfizer-BioNTech takes the record of the fastest ever vaccine to go from concept to reality within only 10 months, by following the same developmental steps that would normally span up to 10 years.

Experts warn that even though the vaccination will start soon, people still need to remain vigilant and follow the pandemic protocols to stop the virus spread.

Pfizer’s vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNTech jab is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which uses the smaller fragments of genetic code from the coronavirus. Once injected into the human body it enters into cells to teach them how to fight COVID-19 and build immunity.

A mRNA vaccine has never been approved for use in humans before, although people have received it in clinical trials.

The Pfizer vaccines are cheaper to produce when compared to the traditional vaccines, although both will play an important role in tackling COVID-19.

Who will get it?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has set the order of priority for the coronavirus vaccine rollout in the UK.

Care home residents and staff will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by people aged above 80 and other health and social workers. Mass immunization of everyone over 50 and younger people with pre-existing health conditions, can happen when more doses arrive in 2021.

Other vaccines

The UK is also considering approval of some other vaccines soon, including the one from which Moderna uses the same mRNA approach as of the Pfizer’s. The country has already pre-ordered 7 million doses that could be ready by the spring.

The vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca which uses a harmless virus, changed to look similar to the virus that causes COVID-19 is another one and the country ordered 100 million doses of it.