The United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for public use. On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they’d been given permission for emergency use of their vaccine.
It means the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the world’s first coronavirus shot backed by rigorous science. This marks a major step towards eventually ending the global coronavirus pandemic. British media have reported that hospitals in England have been told to get ready to start doing vaccinations for medical workers as early as next week. Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the U.K. — and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision expected as early as next week. But doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first several months of next year.
While the U.K. has ordered enough Pfizer vaccine for 20 million people, it’s not clear how many will arrive by year’s end and adding to the distribution challenges is that it must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. Two doses three weeks apart are required for protection. First in line, the U.K. government says, are frontline health care workers and nursing home residents, followed by older adults. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned “we must first navigate a hard winter” of restrictions to try to curb the virus until there’s enough vaccine to go around for the U.K.’s.