British officials have authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, greenlighting the world’s first shot against the virus that’s backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.
The go-ahead Wednesday for the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech comes as the virus surges again in the United States and Europe, putting pressure on hospitals and morgues in some places and forcing new rounds of restrictions that have devastated economies.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency recommended the vaccine could be used after it reviewed the results of clinical trials that showed the vaccine was 95% effective overall — and that it also offered significant protection for older people.
“Help is on its way,″ British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC. “We now have a vaccine. We’re the first country in the world to have one formally clinically authorized but, between now and then, we’ve got to hold on, we’ve got to hold our resolve.”
Hancock later added that the country expects to receive the first shipment of 800,000 doses “within days″ and will begin distributing
shots soon afterward.
According to The Associated Press, England will first distribute the vaccine to people over the age of 80, people in long-term care facilities and health care workers. Government officials believe the vaccine will be widely available sometime in the spring.
Pfizer and BioNTech have shattered records in developing their vaccine. The fastest a vaccine had previously been developed came in 1967 when the mumps vaccine was developed in four years. Pfizer and BioNTech have only been working on their COVID-19 vaccine candidate since the start of the pandemic.