Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Approved in the U.K.

Key Takeaways

  • U.K. regulators approved the mRNA vaccine one day after the country lifted lockdown restrictions.
  • 800,000 doses of the vaccine will be made available in the U.K. as of next week.
  • Vulnerable groups will be prioritized to receive the vaccine.

Vaccine hopes are starting to be fulfilled as the first COVID-19 vaccine gets authorized. U.K. regulators have approved the emergency use of Pfizer and BioNTech's mRNA vaccine after a "thorough" review and the government has accepted its recommendation. The country just lifted its second nationwide lockdown yesterday. 

This is the first authorization of a novel coronavirus vaccine and could mark a historic turning point in the pandemic. It's also a record-breaking scientific feat considering vaccines usually take a decade or so to come to market. Pfizer and its partner first announced their collaboration in mid-March this year and now have a 95% effective product. 

Unlike competitors AstraZeneca, GSK, and Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and BioNTech have not taken a no-profit pledge and plan to charge around $40 for the two-dose treatment. Decisions on authorization from the U.S. and EU are expected later this month. Moderna said it applied for Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency authorization of its vaccine yesterday.

Source: Ipsos
Source: Ipsos.

Next Steps

The outcome now depends on more vaccine candidate approvals, the speed of manufacturing and deployment, and the willingness of people to receive it. As many experts, including Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell, have warned over the past few days, there's a lot that can still disappoint. Goldman Sachs shared its rather optimistic timeline for developed markets last month (see chart below) with large sections of the populations inoculated by the second quarter of next year. Much of the developing world is waiting on the cheaper options like AstraZeneca/Oxford University's vaccine. 

Source: Goldman Sachs
Source: Goldman Sachs.

800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough to grant 400,000 people a high degree of immunity, will be made available in the U.K. as of next week, with vulnerable groups prioritized. The companies have signed a contract to deliver a total of 40 million doses to the country throughout this year and next, which would immunize less than a third of the population. Overall, the U.K. has confirmed purchases of 355 million doses, which gives it the second highest vaccination coverage in the world behind Canada. Canada has purchased enough to vaccinate its population five times over (see chart below).

Source: Duke Global Health Innovation Center
Source: Duke Global Health Innovation Center.
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