The news that the independent medicines regulator has given approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has allowed all Brits to see light at the end of the tunnel. The year 2020 has been hard for many and different for us all, and getting back to normal will still take time – but we can look forward with optimism.
How was it approved?
After months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), scientists have concluded that the vaccine has met the strictest standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The data looked at includes all the results from lab studies, clinical trials, manufacturing and quality controls and testing the product. The MHRA is globally recognised as having top-drawer procedures.
How will it be rolled out?
The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes and are already putting those extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination. It’s a huge undertaking, bigger than the annual flu jab, but there are decades of expertise behind the plans.
Approved vaccines will continue to be available across the UK, and when it is your turn to get the vaccine, you will receive a notification. The UK Government has procured millions of vaccines, enough for everybody, and if further vaccines are approved by the regulator their rollout will also be led by the NHS.
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised Government to prioritise those most at risk first, especially the elderly and frontline health and care workers.
“I’m really looking forward to having it”
Margo Deaves, 81, is a retired nurse living in Inverness. She’s thrilled by news that the vaccine is on its way after a tough year of not being able to see friends and family.
“I know it will be safe and I’m really looking forward to having it,” she tells us.
The only people that Margo has been able to see this year has been her daughter and her husband, part of her ‘bubble’.
“It’s really great the vaccine has been developed already, and we’re being offered it so quickly – especially the elderly, who probably need it the most.”
“Hopefully we can start getting back to normal soon. It’s just amazing,” she continues.
The UK Government is investing serious money behind the vaccination programme to fight Covid-19, but also thinking about the future, too.
They’ve invested more than £230m into manufacturing any successful vaccine and has bought vaccines on behalf of the Devolved Administrations as well as the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories at no charge.
The UK is also the biggest contributor in the world to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, having donated £250m to date.
A great boost for the most vulnerable
Hormoz Ahmadzadeh, 60, runs a social enterprise called Result CIC in Salford near Manchester. For him, the vaccine is vital in the drive to support the most vulnerable people in Britain.
“I’ve seen Covid-19’s impact through my work with marginalised people. Many of us felt helpless to do anything about the situation, so it was a real bonus to be able to provide free coaching to frontline workers, many of whom come from these groups,” he says.
“The vaccine would allow for a fantastic boost for the most vulnerable, including people with mental health issues,” he continues.
But for Hormoz, the vaccine’s arrival will have an even more personal impact, too. His mother, who was 90 in June, contracted Covid-19 in the summer.
“I couldn’t even hug her,” he says of her special birthday. “Then she got Covid in the summer. It touched us all in the family and amongst friends, immensely. It was a hard reminder that we couldn’t be physically close to each other.”
Hormoz’s mother recovered from Covid-19, and he’s looking forward to being able to give her a hug in the future once the vaccination programme is more advanced.
“Having that barrier removed would be such a gift.”
Why are vaccines so important?
Vaccination is the best way to protect people from Covid-19. This is because vaccines are carefully designed to prevent disease, rather than just treat the problem once people are already infected – and unwell.
After clean water, in fact, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention in the world. They prevent between two and three million deaths globally every year – and the potential to save many more.