On Wednesday, the UK became the first nation in the world to approve the vaccine against COVID-19 developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, and elderly people in nursing homes and their staff will be the first to be vaccinated next week.
The prioritized list of who will be vaccinated first was established on a proposal from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), a group of independent experts who advise the government on vaccine safety and use.
Beginning Wednesday, the committee advises that the vaccine should be given to nursing home residents and staff, followed by people over 80 and health care workers in the front line, then the rest of the population in order of age and level of risk.
NEW: Who gets the #vaccine first in the UK? See the order of priority here: pic.twitter.com/IQcWJUS8Bk
– Julianna Tatelbaum (@CNBCJulianna) December 2, 2020
The complete list is as follows:
Older adults in a nursing home and nursing home workers
All those over 80 and over as well as health and social workers
All who are 75 years and older
All who are 70 years and older
All who are 65 years and older
High-risk adults under 65
Adults under 65 with moderate risk
All who are 60 years and older
All who are 55 years and older
All who are 50 years and older
Rest of the population (priority to be determined)
The United Kingdom said it has ordered 40 million doses of vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, 10 million of which are expected to arrive by the end of the year. The country said it plans to launch the first phases of the vaccine program within the next week.
The vaccine requires two vaccinations per person, so 40 million doses will be enough to vaccinate 20 million British citizens or about a third of the population.
“The vaccine will be made available throughout the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in running large-scale vaccination programmes and will begin to implement its extensive preparations to provide care and support to all those who are eligible for vaccination,” said a spokesman for the Department of Health and Welfare, referring to the National Health Service.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the first people in her country would be vaccinated on Tuesday, the BBC reported.
The JCVI announced that the priority list could be changed when more information on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in different age groups becomes available. However, the committee said the current age-based list “is likely to lead to faster administration and better uptake in the most vulnerable people”.
So far, there are no plans to make the vaccine mandatory throughout the UK. Instead, the program will be administered and managed by the health authorities in each country, including NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is reportedly 95 percent effective and must be stored at -70°C.
Temperature-controlled thermal transporters that use dry ice to maintain the recommended conditions can be used as temporary storage by replenishing dry ice for 15 days. When stored in a refrigerator at temperatures of 2-8 degrees C, the vaccine has an effective shelf life of up to five days, which, according to the government, allows for easy distribution.
The BBC reported that about 50 hospitals are on standby to receive the vaccine and that additional vaccination sites such as conference centers and sports stadiums are being set up.
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson twittered that the news of the vaccine approval was “fantastic”.
“It is the protection of the vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again,” he wrote.