THE UK has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination.
Britain’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out.
Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.
But because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, as required, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there – for care home staff, NHS staff and patients – so none of the vaccine is wasted.
The -70C requirement is expected to slow up the number of vaccinations.
The Pfizer/BioNTech jab is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.
The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the jab – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, with the first load next week and then ‘several millions’ throughout December.
Responding to the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘The news of the approval of this Covid-19 vaccine will come as a relief to many people in the UK.
‘Nursing staff, who have huge experience in vaccination programmes, will be asked to play a key role in the vaccine roll-out.
‘They already administer the majority of vaccines in the UK and will be fundamental in its safe and effective delivery, including the training and supervision of support staff.
‘This will be a huge logistical operation and will require the services of those from across health services and beyond to make it work.
‘As the plans for the roll-out are developed, nursing staff will continue to work with colleagues to ensure it can be safely delivered.
‘It is essential these plans include details on maintaining day- to-day health and care services for all those that need them.’
The free vaccine will not be compulsory and there will be three ways of vaccinating people across the UK.
Vaccination centres would be ‘a bit like the Nightingales project’ and would ‘include some of the Nightingales’, said Hancock
Around 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centres, in venues such as conference centres or sports stadiums, are being set up now.
Health Secretary Hancock said: ‘Today is a triumph for all those who believe in science.’
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the health service was preparing for ‘the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history’.
Yesterday afternoon PM Johnson said the campaign was ‘fantastic news to reclaim our lives and get our economy moving again’.