The news: The UK started vaccinating its population against covid-19 today, becoming the first country to start distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, less than a week after it approved it. It is being given to elder-care home workers and people aged over 80 first, with a 90-year-old woman called Margaret Keenan the first to receive it outside a clinical trial, at University Hospital Coventry. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, or roughly a third of the country’s population. The UK government is expecting to receive a total of 4 million doses of the vaccine by the end of December. The UK has recorded more covid-19 deaths than anywhere else in Europe—over 60,000. Its regulators are currently also considering whether to grant emergency approval for AstraZeneca/Oxford University’s covid-19 vaccine candidate, too.
How it’s being administered: The process is complicated by the fact that the vaccine has to be stored in special freezers at -70°C, comes in packs of 975 doses which cannot currently be split into smaller batches, and each individual has to receive two doses, three weeks apart. As a result, innoculations are initially being administered from 50 hospital hubs around the country. They are voluntary.
What’s happening elsewhere: The US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee is expected to meet on December 10 to decide whether to grant Pfizer/BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccine emergency approval, and will meet again on December 17 to consider Moderna’s application for its vaccine. Both Russia and China have already started vaccinating their populations.