Reports: UK to approve COVID-19 vaccine next week

Britain is expected to approve a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech with vaccinations beginning in the first week of December, the Financial Times reported Saturday.

The British government appointed a vaccines minister on Saturday as it prepares to inoculate millions of people against the coronavirus, potentially starting within days, the Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister said Conservative lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi will oversee the country’s biggest vaccine program in decades.

The U.K. medicines regulator is currently assessing two vaccines — one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the other by Oxford University and AstraZeneca — to see if they are safe and effective.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has a location in Groton, Conn., and its German partner BioNTech began human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in early May.

The Guardian newspaper reported that hospitals have been told they could receive the first doses of the Pfizer shot the week of Dec. 7, if it receives approval.

The U.K. says front line health care workers and nursing home residents will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by older people, starting with those over age 80.

Decisions about which, if any, vaccines to authorize will be made by the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Pfizer and BioNTech say their vaccine is 95 percent effective, according to preliminary data. It must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, enough for 20 million people, and 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

In the U.S., Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna Inc. is expected to also seek emergency use of its vaccine soon.

FDA’s scientific advisers are holding a public meeting Dec. 10 to review Pfizer’s request, and send a recommendation to the FDA.

Manufacturers already have begun stockpiling coronavirus vaccine doses in anticipation of eventual approval, but the first shots will be in short supply and rationed.

A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.

Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.

Reporting by the Associated Press was used in this story.

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