Biontech and Pfizer
Syringes are seen in front of displayed Biontech and Pfizer logos in this illustration taken November 10, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

London: Update:

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday hailed UK approval for the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine as "fantastic" news that would help life get back to normal.

"It's the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again," he said, after regulators gave the green light in a world first.

Vaccine approved

Britain on Wednesday said it had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use and that it will be rolled out for use from next week.

“The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTechs COVID-19 vaccine for use,” the government said.

“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

Britain's emergency use authorization marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.

The health ministry said priority groups to receive the jab will include care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

An initial supply of 800,000 doses will be available, Hancock said. "This will start small and ramp up," he told BBC radio, anticipating "millions of doses" to be available by the end of the year.

"We can see the dawn in the distance but we have to get through to the morning," Hancock added, urging the public to continue respecting social restrictions in the meantime as England exited a four-week lockdown.

The breakthrough will encourage hopes the world can finally get back on course in 2021 after a year of traumatic losses, both human and economic.

The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 1.5 million people since the outbreak emerged in China 12 months ago. At least 63 million cases have been registered.

Other vaccines expected to come on stream soon include ones from Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University.

The United States and Europe on Tuesday fleshed out plans to administer Covid-19 vaccines as soon as they gain approval, with a US panel recommending that health care workers and nursing home residents be given top priority.

In the United States, an advisory panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proposed that health care workers and nursing home residents - 24 million people in total - be the first in line for Covid jabs.

Those two groups have accounted for about 40 percent of deaths thus far in the US, which has the world's highest coronavirus toll. Britain has the highest toll in Europe.

The European Medicines Agency said it would hold an extraordinary meeting on December 29 "at the latest" to consider emergency approval for the vaccine developed by Germany's BioNTech and US giant Pfizer.