London: The UK has become the first western country to licence a vaccine against COVID-19, opening the path for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine to roll out in most affected areas.
The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), ahead of decisions by the US and Europe.
The MHRA has given the power to approve the vaccine by the government under special regulations before January 1.
The first doses of the vaccine are supposed to roll out in the coming days, confirmed the company.
The UK has bought 40m doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to have 95% efficacy in its final trial.
Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer said, "Today's emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. This authorisation 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."
Although the vaccine has to be kept at -70C, the companies say it can be stored for up to five days in a fridge, at 2-8'C.
The first priority groups for vaccination are care home residents, who may not be able to come to a vaccination centre, together with the staff who look after them. At fridge temperature, it may be possible for the vaccine to be brought to them.
Next in line will be the over -80s and NHS staff.