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Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine approved for use next week in UK

London, UK: The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use.

British regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against the virus, is safe for roll out next week.

Immunisations could start within days for people in high priority groups.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people, with two shots each.

Around 10 million doses should be available soon, with the first doses arriving in the UK in the coming days.

It is the fastest ever vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same developmental steps that normally span a decade.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted saying: “Help is on its way. The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.”

Although vaccination can start, people still need to remain vigilant and follow coronavirus rules to stop the spread, say experts.

That means sticking with the social distancing and face masks and testing people who may have the virus and asking them to isolate.

Related story: Coronavirus vaccine over 90% effective: Pfizer

The vaccine must be stored at around -70C and will be transported in special boxes, packed in dry ice. Once delivered, it can be kept for up to five days in a fridge.

Experts have drawn up a provisional priority list, targeting people at highest risk. Top are care home residents and staff, followed by people over 80 and other health and social care workers.

They will receive the first stocks of the vaccine – some as soon as next week. Mass immunisation of everyone over 50, as well as younger people with pre-existing health conditions, can happen as more stocks become available in 2021. It is given as two injections, 21 days apart, with the second dose being a booster.

There are some other promising vaccines that could also be approved soon.

One from Moderna uses the same mRNA approach as the Pfizer vaccine and offers similar protection. The UK has pre-ordered 7m doses that could be ready by the spring.

The UK has ordered 100m doses of a different type of Covid vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca. That vaccine uses a harmless virus, altered to look a lot more like the virus that causes Covid-19.