A Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK – paving the way for mass vaccination to start in just days.
Officials said the vaccine will be made available ‘from next week’ as Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared ‘Help is on its way’.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman made the announcement just after 7am this morning as England left its second national lockdown.
Mr Hancock said: ‘Help is on its way. The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19.
‘The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
‘The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.’
The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer /BioNTech has been approved by the Regulatory Agency
An employee at the Pfizer laboratories where they conduct research and development
Vials of the lifesaving jab are seen as an employee works on the Covid-19 vaccine
A priority list of who should get the vaccine first was drawn up earlier this year by the influential Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)
A spokesman for the DHSC added: ‘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.’
A graph showing vaccine orders made by the EU, US, Canada, UK, Japan and Australia
A scientist at the Pfizer lab in New York works on the new vaccine to fight the deadly virus
Speaking to Sky News Mr Hancock added there would be ‘three modes of delivery’ of the vaccine.
He explained: ‘The first is hospitals themselves, which of course we’ve got facilities like this.
’50 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.
‘Also vaccination centres, which will be big centres where people can go to get vaccinated. They are being set up now.
‘There will also be a community rollout, including GPs and pharmacists.
‘Now, of course, because of the -70C storage conditions of this vaccine, they will be able to support this rollout where they have those facilities.
‘But they’ll also be there should the AstraZeneca vaccine be approved because that doesn’t have these cold storage requirements and so is operationally easier to roll out.’
He added: ‘We’re the first country in the world to have a clinically-authorised vaccine to roll out.’
The first deliveries of the vaccine created by Pfizer/BioNTech were slated to come between December 7 and December 9.
This vaccine, which reported early results suggesting the jab is 95 per cent effective, needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures.
One senior hospital executive had been told to expect the vaccine on December 7 to give to NHS staff during the following week.
On November 20, the Health Secretary said he had formally asked the medicines regulator to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK.
Matt Hancock hailed it as ‘another important step forward in tackling this pandemic’.
But he said while the regulator’s approval would see a rollout ready to start next month, there is ‘still a long way to go’.
And the MHRA confirmed last Monday it had received the necessary data to progress its review into whether the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine meets the required standards.
From the moment the Pfizer vaccine leaves the factory in Belgium it can only be taken out of minus 70C four times before it is injected into a patient’s arm.
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.’
HOW DO THE OXFORD, MODERNA AND PFIZER/BIONTECH VACCINES COMPARE?
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have both released interim results of the final stage clinical trials of their vaccines, with both suggesting they are extremely effective.
Oxford University has published the findings from its second phase, which show the jab provokes an immune response and is safe to use – it is not yet clear how well it protects against coronavirus in the real world.
Here’s how they compare:
PFIZER (US) & BIONTECH (DE)
OXFORD UNIVERSITY (UK)
How it works:
mRNA vaccine – Genetic material from coronavirus is injected to trick immune system into making ‘spike’ proteins and learning how to attack them.
mRNA vaccine – both Moderna’s and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines work in the same way.
Recombinant viral vector vaccine – a harmless cold virus taken from chimpanzees was edited to produce the ‘spike’ proteins and look like the coronavirus.
How well does it work?
94.5% effective (90 positive in placebo group, 5 positive in vaccine group) .
95% effective (160 positive in placebo group, 8 positive in vaccine group).
62% – 90% effective, depending on dosing.
How much does it cost?
Moderna confirmed it will charge countries placing smaller orders, such as the UK’s five million doses, between £24 and £28 per dose. US has secured 100million doses for $1.525billion (£1.16bn), suggesting it will cost $15.25 (£11.57) per dose.
The US will pay $1.95bn (£1.48bn) for the first 100m doses, a cost of $19.50 (£14.80) per dose.
Expected to cost £2.23 per dose. The UK’s full 100m dose supply could amount to just £223million.
Can we get hold of it?
UK has ordered five million doses which will become available from March 2021. Moderna will produce 20m doses this year, expected to stay in the US.
UK has already ordered 40million doses, of which 10million could be available in 2020. First vaccinations expected in December.
UK has already ordered 100million doses and is expected to be first in line to get it once approved.
What side effects does it cause?
Moderna said the vaccine is ‘generally safe and well tolerated’. Most side effects were mild or moderate but included pain, fatigue and headache, which were ‘generally’ short-lived.
Pfizer and BioNTech did not produce a breakdown of side effects but said the Data Monitoring Committee ‘has not reported any serious safety concerns’.
Oxford said there have been no serious safety concerns. Mild side effects have been relatively common in small trials, with many participants reporting that their arm hurt after the jab and they later suffered a headache, exhaustion or muscle pain. More data is being collected.