British officials authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, greenlighting the world's first shot against the virus that's backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. The go-ahead for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech comes as the virus surges again in the US and Europe, putting pressure on hospitals and morgues in some places and forcing new rounds of restrictions that have devastated economies, per the AP. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which licenses drugs in the UK, recommended the vaccine could be used after it reviewed the results of clinical trials that showed the vaccine was 95% effective overall and that it also offered significant protection for older people. But the vaccine remains experimental while final testing is done.
"Help is on its way,'' British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC, adding that the situation would start to improve in the spring. "We're the first country in the world to have [a vaccine] formally clinically authorized but, between now and then … we've got to hold our resolve," he said. Regulators in the US and European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by Moderna Inc. British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Hancock said Britain expects to begin receiving the first shipment of 800,000 doses "within days,'' and perhaps "millions of doses" by the year's end. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in total. Nursing home residents, people over 80, and frontline health and social care workers will be first to receive the shot, per the BBC.
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