- UK medicines regulator authorises first COVID-19 vaccine
- Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine meets regulator’s strict standards of safety, efficacy and quality
- Vaccine to be made available across the UK to priority groups from next week
Tens of thousands of people will receive an effective and high-quality COVID-19 vaccine from next week, as the UK becomes the first country in the western world to authorise a vaccine.
Following rigorous clinical trials involving thousands of people and extensive analysis of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness by experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine has been authorised for use in the UK.
Now authorisation has been granted, Pfizer will deliver the vaccine to the UK. In making the recommendation to authorise supply, the MHRA will decide what additional quality assurance checks may be required before a vaccine can be made available. Pfizer will then deliver the vaccines to the UK as soon as possible.
The NHS has decades of experience in rolling out successful widespread vaccination programmes and has put in place extensive deployment plans.
In line with the recommendations of the independent Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the vaccine will be rolled out to the priority groups including care home residents and staff, people over 80 and health and care workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and risk, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
The vaccine is given in 2 doses – 3 weeks apart – and data from clinical trials showed the vaccine is 94% effective in protecting people over the age of 65 from coronavirus, with trials suggesting it works equally well in people of all ages, races and ethnicities. There were also no serious safety concerns reported in the trials.
The UK was the first country to pre-order supplies of the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, with 800,000 doses being made available next week and 40 million doses ordered overall – enough to vaccinate up to a third of the population, and the majority of doses anticipated in the first half of next year.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
This is a momentous occasion and provides fresh hope that we can beat this pandemic, with the UK at the forefront of this revolutionary breakthrough.
I can’t thank enough every single person who has contributed to this triumph – from the thousands of volunteers who took part in clinical trials, to the teams of expert scientists and clinicians at the MHRA who carefully analysed reams of data.
This vaccine, when combined with effective treatments, will form a vital part in making COVID-19 a manageable disease, hopefully allowing us to return to normality in the future.
This work will take time so for now we must all play our part and abide by the local restrictions to suppress the virus and protect the NHS as they start this vital work.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:
Since the start of the pandemic, every single person has made an immense sacrifice to protect themselves, their loved ones and the health of our nation. Through it all, we have remained united to defeat a virus that has taken too many before their time.
As a nation we owe every scientist, clinician and trial volunteer an enormous debt of gratitude for their victory won against odds that at times seemed impossible. It is thanks to their efforts, and of our Vaccine Taskforce, that the UK was the first country to sign a deal with Pfizer/BioNTech and will now be the first to deploy their vaccine.
While today’s breakthrough is a positive one, we will not end the pandemic overnight. But in years to come, we will look back and remember this moment as the day the United Kingdom led humanity’s charge against this terrible disease.
The MHRA started the rolling review of Pfizer/BioNTech’s data in October and the government asked the regulator to assess the vaccine for its suitability for authorisation under Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations, enabling the temporary supply of medicines to be authorised in response to a public health need, which the regulator has recommended.
NHS England will outline