Britain approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe to become the West’s first country to formally endorse a jab it said should reach the most vulnerable people early next week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted the medicine authority’s approval as a global win and a ray of hope amid the gloom of the novel coronavirus which has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally, hammered the world economy and changed normal life.
The world’s big powers have been racing for a vaccine for months in an attempt to be first to begin the long road to recovery.
The approval of a vaccine for use almost exactly a year since the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, is a triumph for science, Pfizer boss Albert Bourla and his German biotechnology partner BioNTech.
Britain said it would start vaccinating ordinary people early next week after it gets 800,000 doses from Pfizer’s manufacturing centre in Belgium. The speed of the rollout depends on how fast Pfizer can manufacture and deliver the vaccine.
Johnson said last month that Britain had ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for just under a third of the population as two shots of the jab are needed per person to gain immunity.
Pfizer has said the shots can be kept in thermal shipping boxes for up to 30 days, from up to 15 days previously guided. Afterwards, the vaccine can be kept at fridge temperatures for up to 5 days.