The United Kingdom authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, becoming the first country to authorize a vaccine backed by promising clinical trial results.
The vaccine, developed in partnership with the German drug maker BioNTech, is set to be distributed across Britain next week, the government said in a news release.
The initial batch of approximately 800,000 doses will go to health care workers, nursing home residents and other elderly people, according to NBC News.
“It’s fantastic,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday. “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”
His message was echoed by Matt Hancock, Britain’s Health Secretary, who told the country that “help is on its way.”
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.
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 2, 2020
The announcement is likely to be followed by similar ones in the United States, as Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA.
Pfizer CEO Albert Broula applauded the U.K.’s decision in a news release on Wednesday, saying that “authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win.”
Pfizer’s vaccine candidate was the first of three that proved to be at least 90 percent effective in clinical trials, preceding vaccines from Moderna and AstraZeneca.
COVID-19 has infected over 1.6 million people in the United Kingdom and killed nearly 60,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. Worldwide, the virus has infected over 64 million people and killed nearly 1.5 million.
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