Drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday they've won permission for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, the world’s first coronavirus shot that’s backed by rigorous science - and a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.
The move allows Britain to become one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe’s deadliest outbreak.
“The vaccine will be made available across the U.K. from next week,'' the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement. The National Health Service "has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programs and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.''
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.
British media have reported that hospitals in England have been told to get ready to start vaccinations for medical workers as early as next week.
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. Food and Drug Administration, a decision expected as early as next week.
But doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first several months of next year.
While the U.K. has ordered enough Pfizer vaccine for 20 million people, it’s not clear how many will arrive by year’s end. Adding to the distribution challenges, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. Two doses three weeks apart are required for protection.
The U.K. government says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be first in line to get vaccinated, followed by older adults.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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