The United Kingdom is preparing to be the first country to introduce the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week, making the shot available in hospitals before distributing stocks to doctors’ clinics.
- The NHS prioritises people over the age of 80, frontline health workers and care home staff and residents
- The first doses are expected to be given on Tuesday, UK time
- The UK has ordered 40 million doses, enough to vaccinate 20 million people
The first doses are expected to be given on Tuesday, UK time, with vaccination of the over-80s, frontline healthcare workers, and staff and residents being the top priority care homes.
The UK granted emergency use approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week – jumping ahead in the global race to begin the mass vaccination program.
In total, the UK has ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the country of 67 million.
It is expected that approximately 800,000 doses will be available within the first week.
Initial doses arrived from Belgium are stored in secure locations across the country, where they will be quality checked, says the UK Health Administration.
A vaccine must be defrosted before use
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has onerous storage requirements.
It needs to be kept at -70 degrees Celsius and only lasts five days in a regular fridge.
For that reason, the Ministry of Health said the vaccine would be given first in 50 hospitals.
He said it would take a few hours to defrost each vaccine and prepare it for use.
NHS England has written to GPs, telling them to prepare to begin vaccination from December 14.
Instead of running clinics in individual surgeries, groups of local doctors will operate more than 1,000 vaccination centers nationwide, the Government said.
Boxes of the vaccine contain five packages of 975 doses, but special regulatory approval is required to share them.
A senior medical officer said that while he was hopeful that the packages could be shared and delivered straight to care homes, he was not guaranteed.
The UK is among the first nations to introduce vaccinations outside the context of a clinic trial, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people worldwide and has hammering the world economy.
Russia began distributing its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine through 70 clinics in Moscow on Saturday, though the shot has not finished its final trials.