The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination. Britain's medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out.
Batches of the Covid vaccine have begun to arrive in hospitals around the UK, ready for the first jabs on Tuesday (8th December 2020). Tomorrow could mark a "decisive turning point in the battle against coronavirus", NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has said. Speaking at the Royal Free Hospital in London ahead of the vaccine rollout, he also said: "Tomorrow is the beginning of the biggest vaccination campaign in our history, building on successes from previous campaigns against conditions (and) diseases like polio, meningitis, and tuberculosis".
Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to be stored in deep-frozen packs containing 975 doses at minus 70C that cannot easily be split down into small batches to be taken to individual care homes, whose residents have been designated the first priority. It can be moved only four times and lasts for just five days at fridge temperature. Because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, as required, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there - for care home staff, NHS staff and patients - so none of the vaccine is wasted.
At the age of 94, the Queen is in the age group most at risk from coronavirus and will be among the first to be offered the Covid vaccine which has now arrived in the UK. The monarch, 94, and her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip will get the vaccine dose early due to their age, but will not receive any preferential treatment. Instead, the senior royals will wait in line during the first wave of injections reserved for over 80s and care home residents. The mass vaccination programme will begin this week but Buckingham Palace has not yet decided whether to make public the Queen’s decision to have it.