Ben HaywardDecember 2nd

In a landmark moment, the UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for mass rollout.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had given its approval to the newly developed vaccine, saying it is safe and will provide up to 95% protection against Covid-19.

Having already ordered 20 million does of the vaccine - enough for 10 million people - the immunisation programme could potentially begin in just days for those classed as high priority, such as the extremely clinically vulnerable and healthcare professionals.

The first 800,000 doses are set to arrive in the next few days, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock telling the BBC: "From next week, we'll be able to start rolling this out. We'll start with those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus.

"Once we've protected the most vulnerable it will help us all get back to normal and back to all the things that we love."

The fastest vaccine ever developed, it has taken just 10 months to go from inception to being regulated, thanks to the collaborative effort of scientists around the world as well as the fast-tracking of funding. 

In a statement, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for use.

"This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. 

"The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.

"To aid the success of the vaccination programme it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed.

"Further details will be set out shortly."

Although the vaccine needs to be kept at -70C, it can be stored for up to five days in a fridge, at 2-8°C, essential for delivery to the wider community. 

Initial plans show that priority will be given to care home residents and those who may not be able to attend a centre to receive the vaccine, and the staff and carers who look after them, before being rolled out to the over-80s and NHS staff.

The trial showed that the vaccine is equally as effective in younger people as those over 65 - who are most at risk and found no difference in efficacy between volunteers of different gender, race or ethnicity.

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