The United Kingdom has become the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with its approval this week of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The MHRA, the UK’s medicines regulator, has given the vaccine the green light to be rolled out nationwide, with 800,000 doses expected to be available within the coming days.
The first to receive the vaccine will be elderly people in care homes and care home staff, followed by people over 80 years of age and healthcare staff.
The first vaccinations are likely to take place in hospitals, since those facilities already have the special freezers required to store Pfizer’s vaccine, which must be kept at a very low temperature (-94 Fahrenheit).
The UK has already ordered 40 million doses, which will be enough to vaccinate 20 million people since the Pfizer inoculation requires two injections one month apart.
According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as reported by the BBC, “I’m confident now, with the news today, that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better. And we’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy.”
Other countries, like China and Russia, approved vaccines months earlier, but they did not undergo the extensive clinical trials deemed essential to prove safety and efficacy. The approval makes the Pfizer vaccine the fastest vaccine to ever go from concept to reality — including the completion of clinical trials — taking just 10 months.