The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech have been considered safe to roll out by Britain’s medicine regulator, the MHRA. Pfizer has stated that the first 800,000 doses will be available in the coming days and that the vaccine offers 95% protection from COVID-19.
The first people in the United Kingdom to receive this COVID-19 vaccine will be nursing home staff and elderly people being held in nursing homes. Following this, the vaccine will be made available to health and care staff, as well as people over 80, who are amongst the highest at risk of contracting the disease. While most vaccines take around a decade to go from first concepts to release to the public, Pfizer’s vaccine is the fastest to go through this process, taking 10 months before its first release.
Pfizer says that they plan to release several million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout December, while the UK has already ordered enough to vaccinate 20 million people. While this COVID-19 vaccine does sound promising, there aren’t many places where the vaccine can be stored. The vaccine must be stored at -70° Celsius, or -94° Fahrenheit. Once the vaccine is moved to a location where it can be safely stored, it can move only once more, and it must be kept in groups of 1,000.
Because of the limitations of the COVID-19 vaccine, most of the vaccine will be sent to major hospitals that have the storage and capabilities to keep the vaccine at the required temperature. The NHS, which is responsible for how the vaccine gets distributed, has said that clinics will first be run through hospitals, in order to make sure that none of the vaccines are wasted. Because of the difficulty of storing and moving the vaccine, that means many in nursing homes and low-population areas might not be able to easily access the vaccine.
The BBC is reporting that the COVID-19 vaccine will be free and that there will be three ways of vaccinating people around the United Kingdom: hospitals, vaccination centers, and general practitioners and pharmacists within communities. About 50 hospitals are setting up vaccination centers currently, and NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that the UK was preparing for “the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history.”
While the UK is preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine, the United States is still behind in this regard. Currently, there are two vaccines in the works, one from Moderna, and Pfizer’s. The Food and Drug Administration will meet on December 10 in order to discuss the possibility of approving Pfizer’s vaccine as well, while they will also meet on December 17 to question approving Moderna’s vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the 21 million healthcare workers in the United States and the three million elderly living in long-term care homes should be the first vaccinated, although there is no clear plan yet as to how a potential COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed throughout the United States.
After the massive deaths and infections that COVID-19 has caused throughout 2020, the possibility of two different COVID-19 vaccine possibilities is a promising way to begin 2021. Hopefully, we will soon see the end of this horrible disease.