UK is first country to authorize a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots
Image source: FDA

The United Kingdom (UK) became the first country to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for a huge step in the fight against the pandemic.

The PfizerBioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is poised to be rolled out in the country next week, wherein medical workers and senior citizens in care homes set to become the first recipients. The British government is the first to formally approve the U.S.-German vaccine for widespread use. This means the country will be one of the first nations to begin vaccinating its population.

“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use,” the U.K. government stated on Wednesday. “The vaccine will be made available across the U.K. from next week.”

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the body tasked to license drugs in the country, recommended the emergency usage of the vaccine after reviewing voluminous data on its efficacy, which included the results of clinical trials that showed it was 95 percent effective.

The PfizerBioNTech COVID-19 vaccine also reportedly offered significant protection for senior citizens, who are at high risk of getting infected with the disease.

Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, called the authorization a “historic” moment.

“This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.,” he said. “With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.”

Last month, Dr. Bourla said Pfizer is ready to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine “within hours” after approval. The company already produced 20 million doses and aims to increase that to 50 million doses by the end of 2020. Its plan is to produce 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

In the United States, emergency use approval is still under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As of posting, more than 13.7 million coronavirus cases and 269,000 fatalities have been recorded in the United States since February.

Once vaccines are approved for the country, use, a federal advisory board has recommended that medical frontline healthcare workers be given the first doses.