LONDON: The UK is gearing up to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 this week, initially making the injection available in hospitals before distributing supplies to medical clinics, the government said on Sunday (6 December).
The first doses are due on Tuesday, and the National Health Service (NHS) will give top priority to immunization of people over 80, frontline health workers, and nursing home and resident staff.
The UK last week approved a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use – ahead of the world race to kick off the most important mass vaccination program in history.
In total, the UK ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people in a country of 67 million.
About 800,000 doses are expected to be available in the first week.
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The Ministry of Health said the initial doses that arrived from Belgium are being stored in secure locations across the country where they will be quality checked.
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine has onerous storage requirements. It must be stored at -70 ° C (-94 ° F) and will last for five days in an ordinary refrigerator.
For this reason, the health ministry said the vaccine will first be administered in 50 hospitals. He said it would take several hours for each vaccine to be thawed and ready for use.
NHS England wrote to GPs asking them to get ready for vaccinations through local GPs from 14 December.
The government said instead of running clinics in individual offices, groups of local doctors would run more than 1,000 immunization centers across the country.
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The vaccine boxes contain five packages of 975 doses, but special regulatory approval is needed to divide them. The senior medical officer said that while he hoped the parcels could be split and delivered straight to nursing homes, it was not guaranteed.
The UK is one of the first countries to introduce vaccinations outside the context of a clinical trial, giving hope that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people worldwide and has hit the global economy.
Russia began distributing the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to 70 clinics in Moscow on Saturday, although the vaccine has not ended its final trials.
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