Johnson hails scientists as UK becomes first country to approve Pfizer vaccine

Deputy chief medical officer calls for patience with introduction

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday praised scientists for developing a Covid-19 vaccine, as the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation for use.

The vaccine will be distributed from next week, Mr Johnson said. At first, about 50 hospitals will offer it before general practitioners' surgeries will be able to administer it.

It was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Although the first priority for vaccinations is the elderly in care homes, others may receive the vaccine earlier because of the logistical challenges of moving it, Mr Johnson said.

“We’re no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year in the spring, but rather the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed and together reclaim our lives and all the things about our lives that we love,” he said.

“We have been waiting and hoping for the day when the searchlights of science would pick out our invisible enemy and give us the power to stop that enemy from making us ill.

"And now the scientists have done it, and they have used the virus itself to perform a kind of biological jiu-jitsu, to turn the virus on itself in the form of a vaccine."

Despite the good news, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer called for patience.

Speaking alongside the Prime Minister, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam hailed the “momentous journey” of the vaccine being invented.

But Prof Van-Tam said the virus might become seasonal and be with us “forever”.

He warned the public not to relax after the news of the vaccine and said distribution would take weeks.

“If we relax too soon, if we just kind of go, ‘Oh, the vaccine’s here, let’s abandon caution,’ all you are going to do is create a tidal wave of infections,” Prof Van-Tam said.

Britain has been badly hit by the pandemic, with more than 1.66 million confirmed infections and almost 60,000 deaths.

On Wednesday, England emerged from its second lockdown, having been under strict restrictions that have closed businesses and confined people to their homes since November 5.

The country has now entered a tiered system, with regions suffering higher infection rates having to undergo stricter restrictions.

Meanwhile, it was announced that people in Wales who received a coronavirus vaccine would be given a card detailing the date and type of the vaccination.

The card will also provide information on how to report side-effects, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said.

The pandemic that began in Wuhan in China late last year and has so far killed almost 1.5 million people.