LONDON: Britain is set to become the first country to introduce the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, initially making the shots available in hospitals before distributing supplies to medical clinics, the government said on Sunday (December 6).
The first doses are due on Tuesday, with the National Health Service (NHS) prioritizing vaccination for people over the age of 80, front-line health workers and nursing home staff and residents.
The UK last week approved the emergency vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech – jumping ahead in global races to launch the most important mass vaccination program in history.
In total, Britain has ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people in 67 million countries.
Approximately 800,000 doses are expected to be available in the first week.
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Initial doses from Belgium are stored in safe places throughout the country, where their quality will be checked, the Ministry of Health said.
Pfizer / BioNTech has severe storage requirements. It must be kept at -70 ° C (-94 ° F) and lasts only five days in a normal refrigerator.
For this reason, the Ministry of Health announced that the vaccine will first be administered in 50 hospitals. It says it will take a few hours to thaw and prepare each vaccine.
The NHS England has written to GPs saying they are going to start vaccinating through local doctors’ services from 14 December.
Instead of running clinics in individual surgeries, teams of local doctors will manage more than 1,000 vaccination centers across the country, the government said.
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Vaccine boxes contain five packs of 975 doses, but special regulatory approval is required for distribution. A senior medical official has said that although he hoped it would be possible to distribute the packages and deliver them directly to the care homes, this was not guaranteed.
Britain is one of the first countries to carry out vaccinations outside the context of clinical research, raising hopes that the tide could soon target a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people worldwide and damaged the global economy.
Russia began distributing its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in 70 clinics in Moscow on Saturday, although the shot has not yet completed its final trials.
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