New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The UK has become the first Western country to licence a vaccine for COVID-19 as it authorised Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine candidate which will be made available across the country from next week. 

The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), ahead of decisions by the US and Europe, and will be first given to those who are at most risk. 

"The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use," the government said.

"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week."

The UK is expected to receive a total of 40 million doses by the end of 2021, enough to vaccinate up to a third of the population, with the majority of doses anticipated in the first half of next year.

The UK government stressed that the COVID-19 vaccine will only be authorised for supply by the UK's independent regulator if it meets strict standards of quality, safety, and effectiveness, and if they are satisfied the vaccine can be consistently manufactured.

Pfizer said Britain's emergency use authorization marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.

"This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.,” said CEO Albert Bourla.

"As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the programme would begin early next week. Hospitals, he said, were already ready to receive it.

"It is very good news," Hancock said.

Pfizer has claimed that its vaccine candidate was 95 per cent effective in final results from the late-stage trial. The company said the efficacy of the vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech SE was consistent across different age and ethnic groups, a sign that the immunization could be employed broadly around the world. Efficacy in adults over 65 years, who are at particular risk from the virus, was over 94%.

While the authorisation is seen as a landmark step in the quest for the first successful COVID-19 vaccine, it is not seen as an ideal choice by India owing to its deep-freeze storage requirement which will cause logistical hurdles. 

The UK government said it remains confident that the cold supply chain needed to distribute the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will not cause any problems or delays. When the vaccine is stored in a fridge, it has an effective life of up to five days at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees, which will allow it to be easily stored at distribution centres.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta