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UK becomes first nation to approve COVID-19 vaccine

UK becomes first nation to approve COVID-19 vaccine
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British officials on Wednesday cleared Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, making the United Kingdom the first country to do so.

The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency cleared the vaccine for use after reviewing data that shows it is 95 percent effective, The Associated Press reported.

“Help is on its way,″ Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC. “We now have a vaccine. We’re the first country in the world to have one formally clinically authorized but, between now and then, we’ve got to hold on, we’ve got to hold our resolve.”

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Hancock said the first 800,000 doses of the vaccine would likely be received in the next few days and estimated the pandemic situation would begin turning around in spring of 2021 with its introduction.

The government has not formally determined who will be prioritized for vaccination, but Hancock said the list will likely include people over 80, health care and other front-line workers and residents of nursing homes.

“We are focusing on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement, according to the AP.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also set to make a decision on emergency-use authorization of the vaccine, co-produced with German company BioNTech, as early as next week. It must be stored at around negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit, potentially complicating international distribution, but Pfizer says it has developed technology that will properly regulate the temperature.

“Pfizer has vast experience and expertise in cold-chain shipping and has an established infrastructure to supply the vaccine worldwide, including distribution hubs that can store vaccine doses for up to six months,” the company said in a statement.

Final testing of the vaccine is still pending and Pfizer and BioNTech have not yet determined how well it protects against asymptomatic spread of the virus.