October 18, 2021

WORLD

U.K. Became The First Western Country To Start Distributing A Covid-19 Vaccine

briton covid-19
90-year-old Margaret Keenan -- received the first of two doses at 6:31 a.m. local time on Tuesday at University Hospital in Coventry

Less than a week after Britain granted emergency-use authorization for the two-dose vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE, the first people began to receive it across the U.K. on Tuesday.

Coming just days ahead of the Pfizer vaccine’s expected authorization in the U.S., the U.K. rollout could be an indicator of the challenges faced by American doctors in getting it into the population.

Those over 80 years old, nursing-home workers and other high-risk health-care staff were front of the line: a group estimated to number six million. The rollout is being paid for by the U.K.’s state-funded National Health Service and modeled on its annual flu-vaccination campaign.

The U.K. has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 20 million people with two doses each. But the complex delivery process of the new shot—which requires a precisely timed deployment through an elaborate, temperature-controlled supply chain—has restricted the first stage of the rollout to 50 hospital hubs in England and a small number of other sites in the rest of the U.K. The government estimates it will receive seven million shots by the end of the year, depending on the production process, down from 10 million it forecast in November.

the vaccine requires two doses, administered at least three weeks apart, the UK will eventually have enough shots to vaccinate roughly a third of the country's population.

The country has also ordered 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which could be approved for emergency use in the UK within the next few weeks.

In England, the first wave of vaccinations will only be administered in hospitals. In Wales, all health boards today began administering the country's 40,000 doses -- they hope to have given more than 6,000 jabs by the end of the week.

Plans to get the vaccine immediately to the most vulnerable in nursing homes are complicated by the need to keep it in sub-Arctic temperatures.

The shots use mRNA, which carries genetic instructions to cells, and must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, or minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, to maintain their integrity. Once thawed, the vaccine can be used within five days if it is kept at 2-8 degrees Celsius, Pfizer says. At room temperature, that window shrinks to two hours.