The government has announced coronavirus vaccinations in are scheduled to begin next week. This makes the UK the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for mass inoculation.
An order has been placed for 40 million doses, enough to immunise 20 million people because each vaccine requires two doses 21 days apart. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has decided the vaccine is safe to begin a vaccination programme. It is believed the vaccine offers 95% protection against coronavirus.
The rollout will begin with vulnerable patients, such as elderly people and those with underlying health conditions which make them higher risk. At the top of the list are care home residents and staff, healthcare workers and the over 80s.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS would contact people to notify them when it is their turn to receive a vaccination.
The first 800,000 doses are due to arrive in the UK from Belgium within the next few days. The process will be slowed slightly because every batch released has to be checked before it can be approved for use.
This is the fastest vaccine ever to reach production, taking only 10 months to go from inception to approved for use. Most vaccines take around 10 years to complete this process.
The vaccine must be stored at -70oC and will be transported in containers packed with dry ice. After it has arrived, it can be stored in a fridge for up to five days.