ABC News Live Update: UK becomes 1st nation to approve Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine
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American drugmaker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are the first to have a COVID vaccine go through the entire process required for emergency approval - and come out on the other side.
The vaccine has officially been given the green light for emergency use in the United Kingdom. The dean of the Brown University School of Public Health speaks to ABC News about the complexities of distributing the vaccine and the challenge of convincing people it's safe to get. Britain on Wednesday said it had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use and that it will be rolled out from next week. The move makes Britain one of the first countries to begin the process of vaccinating its population as it tries to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Other countries aren't far behind: The US and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc. British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
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, AP reports. Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the UK — and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the US 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 UK has ordered enough Pfizer vaccine for 20 million people, it's not clear how many will arrive by year's end. Adding to the distribution challenges, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. Two doses three weeks apart are required for protection. The UK government says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be first in line to get vaccinated, followed by older adults.
Experts caution that a vaccine cleared for emergency use is still experimental and the final testing must be completed. Still to be determined is whether the Pfizer-BioNTech shots protect against people spreading the coronavirus without showing symptoms. Plus, 129 Americans are testing positive for COVID-19 every minute in the U.S. and all eyes are on the Georgia Senate runoff races.