The UK on Wednesday became the world's first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use and said that it will be rolled out as early as next week.
“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,” a government statement states.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the programme would begin early next week. “It is very good news,” Hancock said.
The UK's vaccine committee will decide which groups of people will get the jab first such as care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
US-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and US biotech firm Moderna, have reported preliminary findings of more than 90 per cent effectiveness — an unexpectedly high rate — in trials of their vaccines, which are both based on new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
The UK marks Europe's deadliest outbreak of the virus, with more than 1.6 million cases of the novel coronavirus having been recorded since the pandemic began in late 2019. More than 59,000 people have died with the virus, according to official figures.
Pfizer said the UK's emergency use authorisation marks an historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.
“This authorisation 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 UK,” said CEO Albert Bourla.