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UK to approve Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next week: report

UK to approve Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next week: report
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The U.K. is set to approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, according to a report from the Financial Times on Saturday. 

The approval would make the U.K. the first western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, the Times notes. Russia was the first country to approve a vaccine in August, and the move was widely criticized as the vaccine had not undergone crucial late-stage clinical trials. 

The sources told the news outlets that deliveries would begin within hours of authorization, and the first injections could take place starting Dec. 7. 

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson named junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi as the minister responsible for deploying vaccines earlier in the day, Reuters reported. The U.K. has already ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine from the company. 

Britain said on Nov. 20 that it asked the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, its medical regulator, to assess the vaccine for its suitability, according to Reuters. 

Pfizer and BioNTech applied for emergency authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 20. An agency advisory committee will meet on Dec. 10 to vote on whether it will recommend the vaccine for FDA approval.

Operation Warp Speed officials said on Tuesday that about 6.4 million doses of the vaccine will be distributed to states and territories by mid-December, assuming it receives emergency authorization. Officials expect 40 million doses to be ready by the end of the year. 

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that United Airlines commenced charter flights to send doses of the vaccine to prepare for distribution. 

Pfizer and BioNTech have said their vaccine candidate had an efficacy rate of 95 percent in late-stage clinical trials. 

The Hill has reached out to the MHRA and Pfizer for comment.