It’s a world first. And it’s not an overstatement to say that it represents a light at the end of the tunnel at last for the world – and for the global travel community.
Today, British media revealed the UK has become the first country to officially approve a COVID vaccine for public use.
The independent government Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has given emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
And doses will be administered within days.
The UK’s Health Minister, Matt Hancock, called the approval, “Fantastic news,” and announced that 800,000 doses would be available in the UK next week of the 40 million doses it had purchased from Pfizer.
Hancock is also reported as saying: “So many families have suffered, including my own. I’m just so, so pleased 2020 has been just awful and 2021 is going to be better. Help is on its way. Help is on its way with this vaccine – and we can now say that with certainty rather than with all the caveats that we normally have to put around that.
“I’m confident now, with the news today, that from spring – from Easter onwards – things are going to be better. We’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy. Between now and then we’ve got to hold our resolve.”
“Historic” on a Global Scale
The pharmaceutical company’s chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla also made a statement: “Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against Covid-19.”
The UK’s MHRA worked with what the Guardian newspaper calls, “unprecedented speed to grant emergency use authorisation, having received the final data from the companies on 23 November. It has been carrying out a rolling approval process, scrutinising data from early trials as they came in,” over months of clinical trials which showed the Pfizer vaccine to be 95% effective. Patients will require an initial dose then a booster, second shot.
The pharmaceutical company has revealed it can supply up to 50 million doses of the vaccine globally this year, and up to an incredible 1.3 billion by the end of next year.
Next Up: The US?
Outside the UK, Europe has pre-purchased 200 million doses, and the US has bought 100 million. Both those jurisdictions are still in the process of approving the vaccine.
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meets next Thursday, “to discuss Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19”, which sources tell Open Jaw could signal official approval of the vaccine in the US by next Friday, 11DEC.
What About Canada?
The same Pfizer vaccine is also the one most likely to be implemented first in Canada.
Last week, Reuters reported, “Canada could approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine “around December,” about the same time as the United States and the European Union.”
That’s an accelerated timeline from previous estimates the vaccine approval would come in Q1 next year.
At a media briefing, Supriya Sharma, senior medical adviser at Health Canada, hedged when asked if Canadians would be getting vaccinated this year. She cited not only the regulatory review, but also how many doses can be manufactured, then distributed across Canada as factors in providing a concrete date. The Pfizer vaccine is one that requires storage and distribution at very cold temperatures, complicating its distribution.
“I think the general timelines of authorizations around December, and getting the shipments in January, and getting those moving in January are the best (forecasts) we can give at this time,” she is quoted as saying.