UK to roll out Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine next week

London (Reuters) – Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use and said that it will be rolled out from early next week.

Britain had ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for just under a third of the population as two shots of the jab are needed per person to gain immunity.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has set out how the vaccine will be rolled out around the country:

* Britain will start vaccinating ordinary people early next week after it gets 800 000 doses from Pfizer’s manufacturing centre in Belgium. The speed of the rollout depends on how fast Pfizer can manufacture and deliver the vaccine, Britain said.

* The bulk of the rollout will happen in the new year.

* Hancock said the vaccine will first go to the elderly, those in care homes and their carers, and to those who are clinically vulnerable.

* Britain has established three routes to get the vaccine out to the country, a programme it has described as “challenging” because it needs to be shipped and stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94F) or below.

50 hospitals are set up across England and waiting to accept the vaccine, large vaccination centres are being set up now, and in time local health centres known as general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacists will provide the jab in the community if they have those capabilities.

The community element is likely to take on a larger role if a rival vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is approved, because it does not need such cold storage and is easier to deliver.