The first COVID-19 vaccine is set to be rolled-out in the UK from next week following government approval.
The approval, which is the first in the world for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, means immunisations of the most vulnerable, including care home residents, could be rolled out within days.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use. This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.”
The government said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) would shortly publish its advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The DHSC added: “The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.
“To aid the success of the vaccination programme it is vital everyone continues to play their part and abide by the necessary restrictions in their area so we can further suppress the virus and allow the NHS to do its work without being overwhelmed. Further details will be set out shortly.”
In welcoming the news about the first vaccines being used in care services, SCIE Chief Executive, Kathryn Smith, suggests some caution: “The news is very welcomed. If the first vaccinations begin in care services shortly, it’s certainly time to take a step back and celebrate. However, the virus is still as infectious as it’s ever been and we don’t want any complacency to arise just as the second lockdown ends and the news of the vaccine is made public. Everybody needs to remain vigilant, including care settings, and they can only do that if they’re supported with appropriate PPE and testing for all those that need it – in addition to the vaccination programme.
“The prize is great. If we get this right and the vaccination programme is successful, alongside COVID-19 hopefully being controlled throughout the rest of the winter, we can then look to bring in the improvements to social care that many have been calling for. And we can focus on working together to build the social care and support that we can all be proud of for years to come.”