First vaccine jabs could take place in days

A COVID-19 vaccine could be rolled out in the UK within days, with reports approval of the jab is imminent.

UK authorities are on the brink of approving the coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, with the Financial Times revealing deliveries of the shot could begin just hours after approval.

The publication also reported the first injections could take place from December 7, just eight days away.

In the UK, vaccines usually have to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency until the Brexit transition is complete on December 31, but this could be temporarily overridden by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in urgent cases.

The BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine has been found to have an efficacy rate of more than 95 per cent after two shots of the vaccine.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine. The BioNTech and Pfizer is also one of Australia's top vaccine candidates, with the government purchasing 10 million doses with the option to purchase more when supply is available.

In a statement earlier this month, BioNTech and Pfizer announced they would be submitting an Emergency Use Authorisation request of their vaccine candidate to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The companies said this request could potentially mean the vaccine could be rolled out to high-risk populations by the middle of December 2020.

"Our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine has never been more urgent, as we continue to see an alarming rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 globally. Filing in the U.S. represents a critical milestone in our journey to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to the world and we now have a more complete picture of both the efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine, giving us confidence in its potential," said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO said.

CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, M.D said the emergency authorisation in the US was a "critical step" in making the vaccine available to the rest of the world.

Stage three trails showed the vaccine candidate was well tolerated in volunteers and that side effects were mostly mild to moderate, and cleared up quickly.

The companies said the only severe adverse events experienced by volunteers were fatigue and headaches.

If the UK does approve the vaccine candidate soon, then it will become the first western country to do so.

Chinese authorities have already begun jabbing high-risk patients, and in Russia two vaccines were validated for use even before the final phase of clinical trials had begun.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said these developments said there is now "real hope" that a combination of vaccines and public health measures could end the pandemic.

"The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated," he said.

"No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development."

Dr Tedros said countries must work together to ensure the vaccines are distributed fairly.

"Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people." he said.

"But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines."

Originally published as First vaccine jabs could take place in days