Pfizer/BioNTech to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to UK after approval

Pfizer and BioNTech are preparing to deliver their COVID-19 vaccine to the UK after the country’s drugs regulator became the first authority in the world to approve it.

As predicted by pharmaphorum, the regulator was able to move faster than its counterparts from the European Medicines Agency, who are also conducting a separate review of the data.

Pfizer and BioNTech have an agreement to supply the UK with 40 million doses of the vaccine, which is called BNT162b2 and was shown to be 95% effective in a phase 3 trial.

The companies said they will take immediate action to begin delivery of the vaccine and the first doses are expected to arrive in the country over the coming days, with the entire tranche expected to be complete next year.

Distribution will be prioritised – the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation has already set out priority groups who will receive the vaccine.

There are 11 groups, with older adults living in care homes and care home workers in the first group and those aged 80 years of age and older and health and social care workers second on the list

Delivery will begin throughout 2020 and 2021 to ensure fair allocation of the vaccines across different areas.

Another issue will be the logistical challenges of storing the RNA-based vaccine at around -70C and sending it out to clinics and GP surgeries across the country.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said there are still questions that need to be ironed out to support the delivery process.

Mortimer said: “This is the starting klaxon for people readying to deliver the vaccine. What’s ahead will be a marathon and not a sprint, with many months ahead to vaccinate everyone who needs it.

“This welcome news, however, does not mean that we are immediately out of the woods.

“Our already-stretched NHS faces a monumental effort now to roll-out the vaccine quickly and effectively.”

Nevertheless the UK health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that “help is on its way” after the announcement.

Earlier this month the UK became the first country in Europe to pass 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Transmission rates have fallen in the last month but only because of another economically crippling national lockdown, which has cost thousands of people their livelihoods as businesses struggled to survive.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said: “As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world. With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.”

The MHRA is not the first national regulator to approve a coronavirus vaccine – that accolade goes to the Russian regulator, which backed the “Sputnik V” vaccine developed independently by a team in Moscow.

But this is the first approval based on phase 3 data as the Russian vaccine was only licensed on an interim basis after a review of earlier clinical data.

Other regulators are also reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, including the FDA, and the MHRA is also reviewing data rivals from Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University.

Feature image © BioNTech SE 2020, all rights reserved

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