UK approves Covid-19 vaccine – 800,000 doses available next week
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A Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.
The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech has been shown to be 95% effective in studies.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine – enough to vaccinate 20m people.
About 10m doses will be available shortly for priority groups, including healthcare workers.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had approved the jab after “months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts” from the regulator.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News the UK was the first country in the world to have a “clinically authorised vaccine”.
He said the programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 would start early next week.
The West Suffolk MP said there would be “three modes of delivery” of the vaccine – with hospitals, mass vaccination centres and GPs and pharmacists offering the jab to those most in need.
He added: “Fifty hospitals across the country are already set up and waiting to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s approved, so that can now happen.”
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS in England, said the vaccination programme would be the “largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history”.
In a statement, he said: “This is an important next step in our response to the coronavirus pandemic and hospitals will shortly kick off the first phase of the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history.
“The NHS has a proven track record of delivering large-scale vaccinations from the winter flu jab to BCG and, once the final hurdles are cleared and the vaccine arrives in England’s hospitals, health service staff will begin offering people this ground-breaking jab in a programme that will expand to cover the whole country in the coming months.”
Mr Hancock said vaccinations will start with the most elderly, people in care homes and their carers, before coming down the age range, with NHS staff and the clinically extremely vulnerable also high on the priority list.
He told BBC Breakfast: “2020 has been just awful and 2021 is going to be better, and help is on its way with this vaccine. We can now say that with certainty rather than with all the caveats that I normally have to put around that.
“This will take time to roll out. You’ve got to have that 21 days between the jabs anyway and we’ve got to get this rolled out at the speed at which it can be manufactured.
“I’m confident now with the news today that from spring, from Easter onwards, things are going to be better and we’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy.”
Mr Hancock said 800,000 doses of the vaccine will be available next week, with “several millions” more coming throughout December.
He said the bulk of the rollout will come in the new year, adding: “We haven’t put a finger on the numbers before Christmas.
“But what we do know is that we can get started next week with that first load and then several millions will be coming throughout December.
“People will be contacted by the NHS when it’s their turn and I urge you very strongly to come forward because obviously being vaccinated is good for you, it’s approved as clinically safe by the regulator and it’s good for your community as well to help get this virus under control once and for all.”