UK on Wednesday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on independent advice of its medicines regulator, paving the way for mass vaccinations against the deadly novel coronavirus from as early as next week. The vaccine will be made available across the UK from 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 UK Department of Health and Social(DHSC) Care spokesperson said in a statement.The British regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's (MHRA), says the jab, which claims to offer up to 95 per cent protection against COVID-19 illness, is safe for roll out. Around 10 million doses should be available soon, with the first 800,000 arriving in the UK in the coming days.
The UK government said the approval follows a "rigorous" analysis of the data, conducted at a faster pace but without any compromise on standards. Experts reiterated that the MHRA approval means the vaccine is safe for human use.
The MHRA is the UK's independent regulator, hailed as a globally recognised institution for requiring the highest standards for quality, safety and effectiveness.
The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) will now publish its final advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The joint vaccine, produced by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech, had recently claimed trials suggested it works well in people of all ages, races and ethnicities. The vaccine is being manufactured in BioNTech's German sites, as well as Pfizer's manufacturing site in Belgium.
The UK is expected to receive a total of 40 million doses by the end of 2021, enough to vaccinate up to a third of the population, with the majority of doses anticipated in the first half of next year.
The Pfizer/BionTech formula is an mRNA vaccine that uses a tiny fragment of genetic code from the pandemic virus to teach the body how to fight COVID-19 and build immunity. An mRNA vaccine has never been approved for use in humans before, with people only receiving them in clinical trials so far. Pfizer and BioNTech had reported final trial results on November 18 that showed its vaccine was 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19, with no major safety concerns.
It is the fastest ever vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same developmental steps that normally span a decade, the BBC reported.
The deadly virus has infected more than 1,647,000 people and claimed over 59,000 lives across the UK amid waves of lockdowns to control its spread since March.
Globally more than 63,894,000 people have been affected by the virus and over 1,480,000 deaths have been reported.
(With inputs from agencies)