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Rollout rollout! UK first to approve Pfizer vaccine

The United Kingdom is the very first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and the rollout is expected to begin as early as next week.

The UK’s medicines regulator said that the vaccine, which offers up to 95% protection against the virus, is safe to be rolled out and thus, 800,000 doses will be ready and available in the UK as of next week.

What does this mean for EU citizens?

In an interview with local newspaper MaltaToday, Chris Fearne, the health minister, said that the European Medicines Agency is expected to receive Pfizer’s final submission towards the end of Dicembre. Once approval is granted, the vaccine rollout within the European Union will begin immediately.

Fearne also said that Malta has no less than 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses ordered from the company and the first batch could be here and ready to use as early as Gennaio 2021.

As previously mentioned, the first to receive the vaccine in Malta will be the front liners, those who are dealing with sick patients on a daily basis and those aged 80 and over.

Can the vaccine be trusted?

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine has indeed been authorised far quicker than any other in history, with its lightning development outpacing the 15 to 20 years it usually takes to develop these kinds of medicines and vaccines.

That being said, the US pharmaceutical giant, and its German partner BioNTech is one of three front-runners that have delivered promising results in recent weeks. Meanwhile, anti-vaccine activism is rising on an international scale, with a quarter of people saying they would shun any vaccine approved by regulator, according to an Ipsos poll of 18,000 people in 27 countries.

However, MHRA chief executive Giugno Raine said: “our expert scientists and clinicians have worked round the clock, carefully, methodically poring over tables, analyses and graphs on over a thousand pages of data. That doesn’t mean that any corners have been cut – none at all.”

How was it developed so quickly?

For safety purposes, nearly 45,000 people, the same number as any vaccine trial, had to be tested within the same time frame.

According to professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, the process was shortened by efficiencies that have never been seen before. Following the Ebola crisis, emergency funding mechanisms were put in place in case of an emergency. In this way, money could be allocated very quickly, unlike for previous vaccines.

In addition, the use of new techjnologies, including mRNA, which is what the Pfizer and BioNTech uses, has sped things up, as has any administration procedures that can often put the breaks on scientific advances.

“The safety regulatory process is still there but the time frame between things, they’ve tried to shorten, just in terms of it’s not sitting in a pile of things to be approved,” she added.

What are your thoughts?