Health authorities in the UK have approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S.-based pharma company Pfizer and German-based biotech firm BioNTech, according to a press release from the two companies. The first doses will be given free to some of the most vulnerable Britons and health care workers early next week — welcome news to a world that’s sick and tired of this global pandemic shit.
The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK’s equivalent to the FDA, announced the emergency use authorization of the vaccine on Wednesday, becoming the first Western nation to grant approval for a covid-19 injection that will hopefully slow the spread of the virus. Both Russia and China have developed their own vaccines which were distributed before being tested for safety and efficacy in Phase 3 clinical trials.
“It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Wednesday while praising the work of regulators.
The German government gave BioNTech $US445 ($605) million to develop the vaccine, which uses a revolutionary new technique by employing messenger RNA, or mRNA. Despite attempts by the Trump regime to take credit for creating the vaccine, the U.S. government did not contribute financially to its development beyond buying millions of doses.
The UK struck a deal with BioNTech/Pfizer back in July for 30 million doses (15 million treatments, since each person needs two doses), which was expanded in October to 40 million doses (20 million treatments). The UK has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with at least 1.6 million infections and over 59,000 deaths in the country of 67 million people, though the U.S. is still the global epicentre of the pandemic, with more than 13.7 million confirmed cases and over 270,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The delivery of the 40 million doses will occur throughout 2020 and 2021, in stages, to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts,” Pfizer said in a statement about the British plan. “Now that the vaccine is authorised in the UK, the companies will take immediate action to begin the delivery of vaccine doses.”
The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine has a reported efficacy rate of 95%, though it must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, much colder than your average freezer, an obstacle that governments around the world are trying to overcome by ramping up the availability of ultra-cold storage facilities.
The UK’s nationalized health care system, the National Health Service, will distribute the vaccine for free and residents will be notified when it’s their turn to get the jab, according to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who spoke with the BBC this morning.
The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is being produced in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Puurs, Belgium, with flights already taking off to countries around the world in anticipation of approval by various governments and local health authorities. The first deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine to the U.S. arrived in Chicago on November 27, according to CNBC, and will likely be stored in Wisconsin before it’s distributed throughout the country.
The U.S. has an initial contract with Pfizer for 50 million doses, enough to immunize 25 million Americans, though it will be able to buy 600 million doses eventually. The U.S. has a population of over 330 million and the Trump regime has promised the vaccine will be available to all Americans for free. Japan has ordered 120 million doses from Pfizer and the EU, which has 27 member countries, has ordered 300 million doses.
A panel of experts at the CDC met on Tuesday to decide who should first get the vaccine in the U.S., and recommended prioritising the nation’s health care workers in a vote of 13 to 1. Doctors and nurses have been devastated by the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands infected and at least 1,700 dead, to say nothing of the emotional toll this era is having on medical professionals. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield still needs to give final approval of the plan on Wednesday, something he’s widely expected to do as the FDA still needs to approval the vaccine for Americans.
But there’s still significant questions about who will be second in line for the vaccine after health care workers in the U.S., according to former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb who spoke with CBS News over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The next two categories of people to be considered are likely essential workers and the elderly, which each present different challenges and benefits in a health care system with limited supply.
Prioritising the elderly for vaccination would be smart if your goal was to immediately get the rate of deaths down. The U.S. has roughly 20 million people over the age 75 and 50 million people over the age of 65, with older people the most likely to suffer serious illness and death from covid-19. Roughly 39 per cent of deaths from covid-19 in the U.S. have been in nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly, according to a recent analysis by the New York Times. But prioritising essential workers for vaccination would be better for the U.S. economy, allowing larger portions of so-called “normal life” to resume after months of disruptions.
If it comes down to a question of preserving life or the economy, we can probably guess which choice the U.S. will make. Sorry, Grandma.