The U.K. government has told the National Health Services’ hospitals to be ready to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by drugmaker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech as soon as next Monday, according to a Guardian report, later confirmed by other U.K. media. Meanwhile, biotech Moderna said it would submit a filing to regulators on Monday, requesting emergency authorizations to distribute its vaccine.
- Approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, whose efficacy is said to be 95% by its developers, is expected within days by the country’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, under an emergency procedure.
- The U.K. government also asked the regulator to review the vaccine developed by drugmaker AstraZeneca in conjunction with the University of Oxford, even though its Phase 3 trials raised questions after a mistake that saw some subjects inoculated with only half a dose in their first injection.
- Moderna released the final results from its COVID-19 vaccine trial and it said on Monday that its shots showed 94.1% efficacy, confirming that the vaccine is highly effective at preventing the disease.
- The U.K. is one of Europe’s worst hit countries by COVID-19, with a death rate nearing 900 per million inhabitants based on the official count.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting rising opposition within his own Conservative Party to a three-tier system to be introduced in England after the one-month lockdown is lifted on Wednesday.
The outlook: News of the imminent rollout will help Johnson show there is light at last at the end of the tunnel, even though the first round of injections will be limited to doctors, nurses, and NHS personnel, given the particular difficulties involved in handling, storing and distributing the Pfizer vaccine.
Even as it struggles to counter the virulent second wave of COVID-19 while fearing the consequences of easing the lockdown for the Christmas season, the government’s clear hope is that beyond the medical profession and essential workers, the vaccination rollout will soon ramp up and reach a wider scale in the first few months of 2021.