U.K. becomes first country to approve Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

The U.K. became the first Western nation to grant emergency-use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, clearing a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech SE to be distributed in limited numbers within days.

The U.K. became the first Western nation to grant emergency-use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, clearing a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech SE to be distributed in limited numbers within days. The two-shot vaccine is also being reviewed by FDA in the United States, where a similar authorization could come later this month and a rollout before the end of the year. The decision has stirred up a global debate about how to weigh the desperate need for a vaccine with the imperative of assuring people that it is safe. “Help is on its way with this vaccine—and we can now say that with certainty, rather than with all the caveats,” the British health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Wednesday. The vaccine must be transported at South Pole-like temperatures, a requirement that could dictate who will be vaccinated first in Britain: Nursing-home residents were supposed to be the top priority under an advisory committee’s plans, but efforts to limit transportation of the vaccine and ensure it remains cold may mean that National Health Service staff will receive the shots first. The government said on Wednesday that 800,000 doses would be available by next week for health workers to begin administering. While U.S. regulators pore over raw data from vaccine makers to validate their results, their counterparts in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe lean more heavily on companies’ own analyses.