Covid-19 vaccine approved for use in UK

THE first Covid-19 vaccine for the UK has been approved by independent medicines regulator the MHRA.

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and offering up to 95 per cent protection again the virus, is to be made available across the UK from next week following months of clinical trials.

GPs, pharmacists and hospital teams will play a key role in its delivery. Mass vaccination centres are also being set up in sites such as football stadiums, conference buildings and racecourses.

The MHRA was quick to emphasise the vaccine’s safety, saying that a dedicated team of MHRA scientists and clinicians carried out a “rigorous, scientific and detailed review of all the available data”, beginning in October.

Chief executive Dr June Raine said: “The public’s safety has always been at the forefront of our minds – safety is our watchword.

“We are globally recognised for requiring high standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for any vaccine. Our expert scientists and clinicians worked tirelessly, around the clock, carefully, scientifically, robustly and rigorously poring over hundreds of pages and tables of data, methodically reviewing the data.

“I’m really pleased to say that the UK is now one step closer to providing a safe and effective vaccine to help in the fight against Covid-19.”

It is expected that, for practical reasons, frontline NHS staff will be the first group to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. This is because the vaccine must be stored at -70C, which is easier to achieve using hospital facilities, and there are also limits on the number of times the vaccine can be moved.

First on the priority list will then be residents in care homes for older adults and their carers, followed by those over 80 and frontline health and social care workers. The list then moves down by age and to those with underlying health conditions.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said most vaccinations would be carried out in 2021, adding: “2020 has been just awful and 2021 is going to be better."