The United Kingdom approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine early Wednesday as pressure mounts on the U.S. to do the same.
“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,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, said in a statement.
Inoculations in the UK are anticipated to start next week. The UK expects 800,000 doses of the vaccine to be available for the first wave of inoculations, BBC reported.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing Pfizer’s vaccine and could be days away from ruling on emergency use authorization. The U.S. is anticipated to start vaccinating people in mid-December if the FDA approves one or more of the pending vaccines soon.
The UK initially struck a deal with Pfizer to provide 40 million vaccine doses by early spring. With Pfizer’s double injection vaccination process, that’s enough to vaccinate 20 million people.
In a tweet early Wednesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the news “fantastic.”
“It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again,” Johnson added.
The vaccine will be distributed in three different ways. The first to receive the vaccine will be hospitals. As of right now, 50 hospitals in the UK are prepared and ready to receive the vaccine.
In addition to hospitals, vaccination centers are currently being established. Eventually, the vaccine will be distributed at local doctors’ offices and pharmacists, but getting the vaccine to hospitals is the top priority.
As hospitals begin distributing the vaccine the UK health department urges citizens not to let their guards down and continue to help suppress the spread of the virus.
“To aid the success of the vaccination program it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed,” a UK health department spokesperson said in a statement.
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programs and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination,” the statement added.