Pfizer vaccine en route to UK

Doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are already on the way to the UK, a senior official from the pharmaceutical company has said.

Ben Osborn, Pfizer’s UK country manager, told the PA news agency that 800,000 doses would be made available in the “coming days” ready for deployment by the NHS next week.

Mr Osborn said that the approval of the vaccine marked a “turning point” in the fight against the disease.

Doses of the vaccine for European countries are being manufactured at a Pfizer site in Belgium.

And the first doses of Britain’s order of 40 million doses are already being delivered.

“This is an incredible moment for science, it’s an incredible moment for Pfizer and our partner BioNTech, but I think most importantly it’s an incredible moment for society and our fight against this pandemic,” he told the PA news agency.

“This genuinely is now a turning point, I believe, in fighting back against Covid-19.”

On the speed of the approval, Mr Osborn added: “We always had a very clear focus that we needed to produce a safe and effective vaccine, but it needed to be in a timely way.

“So, this is absolutely in line with where we we hoped it would be, but of course (that) was always subject to the independent assessment of MHRA and I’m delighted that we’ve now got this authorisation.”

He continued: “As you probably heard from the Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, earlier this morning, the delivery schedule has already been put in place.

“We are delivering right now as we speak from Belgium into the UK, that process has already begun.

“We anticipate that we will be providing some 800,000 doses or so in the coming days, ready for deployment next week by the NHS.”

He said the pharmaceutical company was not “giving an absolute figure” on the total numbers which would be delivered to the UK this year.

But Mr Osborn added: “You’ll understand this is a significant challenge to deliver.

“But we will be in a position to deliver millions of doses in the weeks ahead.

“That is part of a bigger scale-up, which will essentially allow the UK to have 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.”

When asked whether the UK would be able to order more vaccine doses, and if so how long they would take to come through, he told the news agency: “Right now the Government has only committed to 40 million doses, so that is what we are focused on delivering.”

He added: “We, of course, will have conversations with all governments, but we need to ensure that we are solving this pandemic on a global basis.

“This is a global crisis and the vaccine, of course, needs to be a global solution.

“We need to ensure the equity is at the heart of all of our decision-making, as we’re putting in place the required volumes for each country.”

Mr Osborn said the pharmaceutical company was “working very closely with government and the NHS deployment team to ensure that those priority populations that require this vaccine first do indeed get the vaccine in the days and weeks ahead”.