UK wants to launch vaccination campaign next week

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 2 in London.

The British government did not shy away from its pleasure on Wednesday, December 2. Boris Johnson and his ministers have long welcomed a “World premiere” : the United Kingdom is the first country to authorize the anti-Covid-19 vaccine from the American Pfizer and the German BioNTech. Its national health agency, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has indeed confirmed having given the green light. “This is great news, which will save lives, we now have the hope that life will return to normal around Easter”, welcomed the British Minister of Health Matt Hancock. “This is fantastic news”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson added.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections twenty-one days apart to be effective and involves a demanding supply chain (it must be stored at – 70 ° C). The UK has pre-ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, manufactured in Belgium (trucks were leaving the Puurs plant on Wednesday afternoon), but is not expected to receive more than 800,000 doses from the week next. At the end of November, Mr. Hancock had nevertheless mentioned “10 million doses” for the country by the end of 2020. On Wednesday, he revised his forecasts downwards: “5 million doses is not unreasonable”, he clarified.

“No shortcuts”

The vaccination campaign could start as soon as “The start of next week”, he added. Boris Johnson’s government has already planned 50 “hubs” – large vaccination centers, operational as of next week, most in hospitals, but also in stadiums (like the Ashton Gate, in Bristol, in the southwest. of England), are being developed. Residents and staff of retirement homes, healthcare staff and the elderly (over 80 years old) will be vaccinated first. “The goal is to save as many lives as possible and start with the most vulnerable”, Hancock said.

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The Johnson government is also betting on the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, also under review by the MHRA. It is much cheaper than Pfizer-BioNtech and can be stored in the refrigerator. “The timing for the issuance of the green light is completely in the hands of the regulator”, according to the Minister of Health, who insisted on his independence. “He has to take the time it takes to assess the efficacy and safety of the vaccine. “” We took no shortcuts to [le feu vert] of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the recommendations are the result of an extremely rigorous review ”, for her part assured June Raine, executive director of the MHRA, during a press conference on Wednesday. The vaccine review was done “According to international standards”.

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