On Wednesday, Britain became the first western nation to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine for general use,
confirming next week’s rollout of Pfizer-jab BioNTech’s in a big move forward in humanity’s battle against coronavirus.
The UK’s independent medicine regulator gave its green light in double-quick time just
12 months after the pandemic started in China, but insisted protection had come first.
“Everybody can be confident that no corners whatsoever have been cut,” Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) chief executive June Raine told a news conference.
“The public deserve nothing less,” she said, The emphasis on the certification process of her organization was no different
from that of her counterparts in the US and the European Union.
The “fantastic news was praised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, though urging the public to
remain vigilant on the day that England abandoned a four-week lockdown and re-imposed regional curbs.
“It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again,” he said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the UK’s state-run National Health Service will start with
800,000 doses “early next week,” starting with care home residents and health and care staff.
By the end of the year that
will be ramped up to millions ‘of inoculations.
“Help is on its way,” he told BBC radio
After a year of traumatic human and economic losses, the breakthrough will
encourage hopes that the world can finally get back on track in 2021.
Since the outbreak emerged in China 12 months ago,
the novel coronavirus has killed nearly 1.5 million people.
There were at least
63 million cases registered.
‘Science is going
Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said the UK certification 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.
US giant Pfizer and German newcomer BioNTech added that
they expected other countries to take more regulatory decisions “in the coming days and weeks”.
On Tuesday, the United States and Europe fleshed out proposals to prescribe Covid-19 vaccines as soon as they receive
approval, with a US panel recommending that top priority be given to health care staff and nursing home residents.
Other vaccines that are expected to come on stream soon include
Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccines, which have good UK government backing.
The UK news was also acclaimed by
scientists but warned that logistical problems persisted.
At -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit), the
Pfizer-BioNTech jab must be frozen, requiring specialist freezers.
Two doses, 21 days apart are needed, and the MHRA
said immunity kicks in a week after the second dose.
“It’s not easy but we’ve got those plans in place,” Hancock said.
Campaigners and governments have stepped up efforts to
ensure equitable access to successful vaccinations for developing nations.
The candidate for AstraZeneca/Oxford can be stored in standard refrigerators and is provided at cost price, but
is undergoing further data analysis after concerns about the efficacy of its dosage regime have been raised.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have both
demonstrated approximately 95% efficacy against the coronavirus.
Both are based on
new technologies for mRNA.
MRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) is used to supply the body
with genetic material that helps human cells produce a virus protein.
This trains the immune system to be ready
to strike if the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is encountered.
Among the country’s 24 million care staff and nursing home
residents, about 40 percent of US deaths have come from.
The nation has the highest coronavirus toll in the
world, while Britain has the highest toll in Europe.
The announcement came as England exited its month-long coronavirus lockout, but as a new
regional system for cutting infection rates kicked in, much of the nation remained under restrictions.
Prime Minister Johnson, a survivor of Covid, succeeded in winning a vote on parliamentary measures late Tuesday,
facing considerable resistance within his own Conservative ranks that underlined the fatigue with curbs around the world.
“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
Russia was the first country to declare a promising candidate for a
vaccine, called Sputnik V, and initiated its military’s mass coronavirus vaccination program.
But the drug has not
undergone clinical trials in the West.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN