World / How is UK planning the roll out of COVID-19 vaccine for its citizens?

Zoom News : Dec 03, 2020, 07:49 AM
London: Good news after months and months of pain and loss across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic: The UK has approved the coronavirus vaccine created and tested by Pfizer-BioNTech and rollout is set to begin next week. The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), even as similar decisions by the US and Europe are anticipated and awaited. 

Ugur Sahin, MD, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech said, “The Emergency Use Authorization in the UK will mark the first time citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunized against COVID-19... We believe that the roll-out of the vaccination program in the UK will reduce the number of people in the high-risk population being hospitalised. Our aim is to bring a safe and effective vaccine upon approval to the people who need it. The data submitted to regulatory agencies around the world are the result of a scientifically rigorous and highly ethical research and development program.

That makes the UK the first western country to license a vaccine against Covid-19 that originated in Wuhan (China) late last year. This authorisation also opens the way for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and is now being touted as scheduled to begin in those most at risk next week. It is also the need of the hour as data from the Johns Hopkins University shows that the country has the third-highest number of confirmed cases in Europe, after France and Spain, with over 1.6 million infections.

So the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine makes it first past the post and it was seen to be 95% effective at preventing Covid-19 in late-stage clinical trials. But how does the UK plan to roll it out?

UK's vaccine roll-out plan:

Beginning next week, the elderly people in care homes and medical workers in the country will be first in line.

​Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, said the UK will have 8,00,000 doses available next week.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced in July an agreement with the UK to supply 30 million doses of its mRNA-based vaccine, once authorized for emergency use. That agreement was increased to 40 million doses in early October. 

These 40 million doses will be delivered by BioNTech throughout 2020 and 2021 and will be completed next year.

This is a two-dose vaccine and the total population of the UK is estimated to be 66 million population.

At that rate of doses, the UK will have enough doses to vaccinate around a third of its population.

UK Health authorities say that rolling out the vaccine across the UK would be “challenging” because it needed to be kept at -70C.

A network of 50 hospitals was ready to deliver the first jabs and specialist vaccination centres were being built.

The vaccine would also be available from some GPs and pharmacists if they have cold storage facilities.

The UK has a Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) and it will help the government decide which parts of the population would be the first to receive the vaccine.

The decision of the UK government is also seen driven by the fact that the nation has clocked the highest number of deaths due to the coronavirus in Europe with almost 60,000 fatalities and growing.

What about the rest of the world?

And what are the WHO's plans for the rest of the world? Because all said and done, it is a pandemic, meaning that the entire world has been affected and by the global health body's own confession, No one's safe until everyone is safe."

Since this is a pandemic and the virus recognises no political or geographical borders, the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly warned against vaccine nationalism. Top officials with the WHO warn against the potential impacts of “vaccine nationalism”, which would be seen if wealthier nations hoard Covid-19 vaccine doses. The Pfizer CEO has promised to work to ensure equal distribution to the rest of the world. 

Time for COVAX to step in?

As world leaders raced to sign contracts with pharmaceutical companies to pre-order potential novel coronavirus vaccines, experts warned that this may leave lower-income countries without enough doses to inoculate their entire populations. To avert that mishap, and to ensure that no country gets left behind, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced COVAX, a global initiative with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and international vaccine alliance organization Gavi. 

COVAX aims to bring governments and vaccine manufacturers together to ensure all countries have access to the COVID-19 vaccine once they become available. It’s one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the WHO, France and the European Commission.