The news: The UK started vaccinating its population against covid-19 today, becoming the first country to start distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, less than a week after its approval. It is being given to elder-care home workers and people over 80 first, with a 90-year-old woman named Margaret Keenan the first to receive it outside a clinical trial, at University Hospital Coventry. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, or roughly a third of the country’s population. The UK government is expecting to receive a total of 4 million doses of the vaccine by the end of December. The UK has recorded more covid-19 deaths than anywhere else in Europe—over 60,000. Its regulators are currently also considering whether to grant emergency approval for the AstraZeneca-Oxford University covid-19 vaccine candidate, too.
How it’s being administered: The process is complicated by the facts that the vaccine has to be stored in special freezers at -70 °C, it comes in packs of 975 doses that cannot currently be split into smaller batches, and each individual has to receive two doses, three weeks apart. As a result, inoculations are initially being administered from 50 hospital hubs around the country.
What’s happening elsewhere: The US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee is expected to meet on December 10 to decide whether to grant the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine emergency approval, and will meet again on December 17 to consider Moderna’s application for its vaccine. Both Russia and China have already started vaccinating their populations.
Biotechnology and health
What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines
New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.
A biotech company says it put dopamine-making cells into people’s brains
The experiment to treat Parkinson’s is a critical early test of stem cells’ potential to tackle serious disease.
Tiny faux organs could crack the mystery of menstruation
Researchers are using organoids to unlock one of the human body’s most mysterious—and miraculous—processes.
How AI can help us understand how cells work—and help cure diseases
A virtual cell modeling system, powered by AI, will lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of diseases, argue the cofounders of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.