UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for rollout from 'next week'
In this file photo taken on November 23, 2020 This illustration picture taken in Paris on November 23, 2020 shows a syringe and a bottle reading "Covid-19 Vaccine" next to the Pfizer company logo. Britain on December 2, 2020 became the first country to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for general use and said it would be introduced next week.
AFP/Joel Saget

UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for rollout from 'next week'

(Agence France-Presse) - December 2, 2020 - 3:57pm

LONDON, United Kingdom — Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for general use as it announced a rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech's drug from next week. 

"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 department of health said in a statement.

"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week," the statement said. Priority groups will include care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

After months of "rigorous" clinical trials and thorough analysis of the data, the MHRA "concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness", the statement added.

"To aid the success of the vaccination programme it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS (National Health Service) to do its work without being overwhelmed."

Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla said it was a "historic moment in the fight against COVID-19". 

"This authorisation 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 UK," he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech added that they expected further regulatory decisions from other countries "in the coming days and weeks".

The announcement came as England exited a month-long coronavirus lockdown, but most of the country remained under restrictions as a new regional system for cutting infection rates kicked in.

The four-week lockdown, which began in November, was imposed to stop surging rates of infection, ease pressure on health services, and to allow families to gather for Christmas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Covid survivor, succeeded in winning a vote on the measures in parliament late Tuesday, despite significant opposition within his own Conservative ranks.

"All we need to do now is to hold our nerve until these vaccines are indeed in our grasp and indeed being injected into our arms," he told lawmakers before the vote.

Until then "we cannot afford to relax, especially during the cold months of winter", he warned.

COVID-19 VACCINE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PFIZER UNITED KINGDOM
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 16, 2021 - 7:37pm

Pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said on July 29, 2020, that they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France's Sanofi in partnership with the UK's GSK and is subject to a "final contract."

This thread collects some of the major developments in the search for a vaccine to ease the new coronavirus pandemic. (Main photo by AFP/Joel Saget)

January 16, 2021 - 7:37pm

Serbia becomes one of the first European countries to receive a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday when one million doses of a jab produced by Sinopharm arrived at Belgrade airport.

President Aleksandar Vucic posted a picture of himself on Instagram, standing next to the plane carrying the vaccine.

"We are proud of our friendship with China," he was quoted as saying by Beta news agency, telling reporters that he hoped to be inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine in six or seven days. — AFP

January 14, 2021 - 7:41pm

Both Pope Francis and his predecessor, former pope Benedict XVI, have received the coronavirus vaccine, the Vatican says on Thursday.

"I can confirm that as part of the Vatican City State vaccination programme to date, the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus," spokesman Matteo Bruni says. — AFP

January 13, 2021 - 1:25pm

President Joko Widodo receives the first COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia.  The shot, from China's Sinovac, kicks off the massive immunization campaign in the country dealing with one of most number of cases in the region.

Indonesia opted to secure millions of doses from the Chinese pharmaceutical company whose lack of transparency about its vaccine sparks concerns. While the Philippines ordered 25 million doses, Indonesia secured 125.5 million from Sinovac.

Indonesia is also expecting 50 million doses from Astrazeneca, 150 million from American biotech firm Novovax, 60 million from Sinopharm and 20 million from CanSino, making it the third territory in the world with the most number of confirmed doses after Europe and the United States. (Handout photo)

January 13, 2021 - 7:17am

The Chinese-developed Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated a 50 percent efficacy following tests in Brazil, the organization in charge of its production in the South American country says.

Coronavac has been given to frontline health care workers in close contact with coronavirus patients.

The Butantan Institute repeated its claim from last week that the vaccine is 78% effective in preventing mild cases that needed treatment and showed 100% efficacy in staving off moderate to serious cases. — AFP

January 12, 2021 - 9:03pm

Switzerland gives the green light Tuesday to the Moderna vaccine against the new coronavirus — the second jab it has authorised for use, joining the vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech.

The Swissmedic regulatory authority said the vaccine from US firm Moderna had shown a "high efficacy rate", and could be deployed immediately.

The neighbouring European Union gave its approval to the Moderna vaccine last Wednesday, with Britain doing likewise on Friday. —  AFP

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