THE UK is set to begin rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to the elderly and most vulnerable from next week after becoming the first country in the world to approve the jab.
A British Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "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.
"This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
"The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week."
The spokesman added: "The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.
"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 to do its work without being overwhelmed."
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the announcement as “fantastic” adding that the vaccine “will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again."
It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again. (2/2)
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 2, 2020
Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann hailed the announcement as “hugely significant”.
"My department has the plans and preparations in place. There will still be difficult days ahead, and people must not let their guard down, but there are brighter days ahead."
This is a hugely significantly day. My Department has the plans and preparations in place. There will still be difficult days ahead, and people must not let their guard down, but there are brighter days ahead.
— Robin Swann MLA : #StopCovidNI (@RobinSwannMoH) December 2, 2020
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla described the news as historic.
"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.
"As we anticipate further authorisations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world."
The head of life sciences at the University of Nottingham Professor James McInerney told RTE he feels "the most enormous relief" following the news.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he noted that the new vaccine does not appear to decrease in efficacy among the older age groups and that few adverse reactions had been reported aside from a headache or some blistering on the skin.
He added that, crucially the vaccine, which requires two jabs two weeks apart, was found to be particularly effective at preventing severe Covid-19.
"There is hope on the horizon,” he declared.