British officials authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, green-lighting the world's first shot against the virus that's backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. The go-ahead for the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech comes as the virus surges again in the United States and Europe, putting pressure on hospitals and morgues in some places and forcing new rounds of restrictions that have devastated economies.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which licenses drugs in the U.K., recommended the vaccine could be used after it reviewed the results of clinical trials that showed the vaccine was 95 per cent effective overall — and that it also offered significant protection for older people, among those most at risk of dying from the disease. But the vaccine remains experimental while final testing is done.
"It's fantastic," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. "The vaccine will begin to be made available across the U.K. 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 approval of a vaccine is a huge step towards normality, but the rules in your area have not changed.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 2, 2020
Please keep following the restrictions to protect those around you. pic.twitter.com/pN64L1YITH
"We now have a vaccine. We're the first country in the world to have one formally clinically authorized but, between now and then, we've got to hold on, we've got to hold our resolve."
Help is on its way.— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 2, 2020
The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19.
The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.
Other countries aren't far behind: Regulators in the United States and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc. British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Some companies will make big money off their COVID-19 vaccines — but not as much as they could Poll finds majority of Canadians open to getting COVID-19 vaccine, but many want to wait Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Britain expects to begin receiving the first shipment of 800,000 doses "within days," and people will begin receiving shots as soon as the National Health Service gets the vaccine.
Doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first several months of next year. A government committee will release details of vaccination priorities later Wednesday, but Hancock said nursing home residents, people over 80, and health-care workers and other care workers will be the first to receive the shot.
Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the U.K. — and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the U.S. regulators. Pfizer's vaccine is among seven that Canada has pre-ordered. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to review the Pfizer product. Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said regulators here are expected to make decisions on timelines similar to those followed by the U.S.