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The Scientists Who Gave The Green Light To The Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine Say "No Corners Were Cut" On Safety

3 min read

Scientists who gave the go-ahead to the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine have said “no corners were cut” in testing it for the market and it has met rigorous international safety standards.

It was announced this morning that the vaccine is 95% effective and 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week.

It is a two-dose process, with shots given 21 days apart, and seven days after the second injection a person achieves full immunity.  

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), told a live television press conference that time had been of the essence, a rolling review of the data had been carried out, but “that doesn’t mean any corners have been cut.”

She said: “This vaccine produced and developed by Pfizer/BioNTech meets rigorous high standards of safety, effectiveness and of quality. The public’s safety has always been at the forefront of our minds. Safety has been our watchword and it will always continue to be so.”

The vaccine will be given out according to health need and not determined by which Tier someone lives in. Nor will it be compulsory for a health worker to take the vaccine though they have prioritisation, according to Prof Wei Shen Lim, Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Residents in care homes and their carers will be the first people to get the vaccine in the first phase of delivery. The second group will be those over 80 and over, frontline health and social care workers. Then all of those age over 75, all of those over 70 years of age and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The fifth group is 65 and over, the sixth group is 16 to 64 year olds with underlying conditions, followed by those aged 60 and over, 55 and over and 50 and over.

Asked during the press conference how the MHRA had been able to authorise the vaccine quicker than European Medicines Agency, Dr Raine said: "The MHRA is equivalent to all international standards."

She explained her scientific colleagues worked day and night, and at weekends during the testing and review process.

The extremely low temperature the vaccine must be stored at – minus 70C – was also raised in the press conference with questions remaining on exactly how it will be deployed.  

Prof Lim said there are stability issues that could “constrain how a vaccine can be supplied to different people.”

However he said an unprecedented mass vaccination programme will be rolled out soon which will be very flexible.

Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group, said once the vaccine is taken out of a freezer it is still stable between two and eight degrees celcius so it can be used at vaccination sites.

He said the NHS has the data to try and organise a deployment model.

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