The United Kingdom on Wednesday approved a coronavirus vaccine by clearing a shot developed by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, Reuters reported. The vaccine will be rolled out in the UK from early next week.
“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use,” the UK government said, according to Reuters.
The regulator’s chief Dr June Raine said that the vaccine has been approved because “strict tests have been done and complied with”. “Everyone can be absolutely confident that no corners whatsoever have been cut,” she added.
Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla told Reuters that the company lauds the regulatory authority’s “ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK”.
“As we anticipate further authorisations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high quality vaccine around the world,” Bourla said.
The United Kingdom has now become the third country to clear a Covid-19 vaccine. China has already given emergency approval for three experimental vaccines and has inoculated around 1 million people since July, according to Reuters. Russia has been vaccinating frontline workers after approving its Sputnik V shot in August, before it had completed late-stage testing on safety and efficacy.
The UK’s vaccine committee will now decide on the priority groups on whom the vaccine will be administered. “Residents in care homes for older adults and care home workers are the highest priority,” said Wei Shen Lim, the chairperson of UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Pfizer had announced a 95% efficacy in the phase three trials of the vaccine. “The safety of the vaccine is similar to other vaccines,” said Munir Pirmohamed, UK’s Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group chairperson. “Most of the side effects are very mild and usually last for a day or so.”
Pfizer has also applied to United States’ health regulators for the emergency use of the vaccine and the approval for the same is expected by mid-December. Meanwhile last month, India’s Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the country “may not need” the Pfizer vaccine, as the company does not have “linkages” to manufacture it.
India has not signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine yet so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country. Availability of the vaccine in India will be subject to approval by domestic regulators, and the Indian government agreeing to purchase them. So far, many other nations including the United States, United Kingdom, European Union countries, Canada, Australia and Israel have made deals to buy millions of doses of the vaccines.