The UK has become the first country to approve the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
This was made known by Health Minister Matt Hancock on Wednesday stating that the UK’s medicines regulatory agency has given its authorisation to the vaccine and that the NHS would be ready to start vaccinating early next week.
The comes as three candidate vaccines have announced promising results from phase three trials in the past month.
The two companies announced this month from preliminary results that the vaccine is 95% effective and in particular, is 94% effective in people over the age of 65 who are more at risk of developing severe COVID-19.
“The Emergency Use Authorisation in the UK will mark the first time citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunised against COVID-19,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of German company BioNTech.
“We believe that the roll-out of the vaccination program in the U.K. will reduce the number of people in the high-risk population being hospitalised,” Sahin added in a statement.
The two companies currently have an agreement with the UK to provide 40 million doses of the vaccine in 2020 and 2021.
Experts say the vaccine could be more difficult to distribute than others since it needs to be stored at ultracold temperatures (-70 degrees Celsius).