Britain became the first nation in the world to allow the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday and said it would be rolled out next week.
“The Government today accepted the recommendation to approve the use of Pfizer-BioNTechs COVID-19 vaccine from the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA),” a media release said.
Pfizer said the emergency usage authorization from Britain represents a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. “This authorization 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,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
In the U.K. It had indicated that it would step rapidly in approving a vaccine, and for a potential rollout, doctors around the country were placed on standby. For U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after eight months of criticism over his pandemic policy, the rollout may give some political respite, as Britain’s death toll is close to 60,000.
Pfizer said it would start shipping limited supplies to the UK immediately — and was gearing up for even broader delivery if the US Food and Drug Administration gave a similar nod, a decision anticipated as early as next week.
However, doses are scarce everywhere and initial stocks will be rationed before more are produced in the first few months of next year. “I’m obviously absolutely thrilled with the news, very proud that the UK is the first place in the world to have a clinically authorised vaccine,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.