England’s deputy chief medical officer has urged Britons to get the coronavirus vaccine, warning a low uptake would lead to restrictions lasting for longer.
If people want social distancing to come to an end they need to take the Covid-19 jab when it is offered to them, Jonathan Van-Tam said at a Downing Street press conference, on the same day the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, said the “biggest programme of mass vaccination in the history of the UK” would start from next week.
Standing next to the PM, Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, said the plan was for over-80s and people in care homes to get vaccinated first, together with "some of the frontline health and social care staff who are looking after them".
The UK government authorised the first Covid-19 vaccine following approval by the the independent medicines agency for the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on Wednesday.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concluded that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had met its “strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness” after months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts, a government spokesperson said.
However, the breakthrough has been slightly tempered by concerns that the vaccine may not be able to be used in care homes because it needs to be kept so cold.
The prime minister backed a warning from the Welsh government – telling MPs there were “logistical challenges” in distributing it widely.
Sean Marett, chief commercial officer at BioNTech and responsible for distribution, said the Covid-19 vaccine could be delivered to care homes, as studies now show it can be transported at 2C to 8C for up to six hours.