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.