The United Kingdom authorized the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, becoming the first nation to do so as it schedules rollouts beginning next week.
The vaccine will be given to nursing home residents, frontline health workers, and the elderly first, with other vulnerable populations to follow.
"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week," a government spokesperson said. "The [National Health Service] has decades of experience in delivering large-scale vaccination programs and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination."
Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla called the authorization "historic."
"This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.," he said.
The British government reached an agreement in October for 40 million doses of the vaccine, which is reportedly 95% effective. The U.K. has secured a total 357 million vaccine doses from seven different providers, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, the University of Oxford, and Novavax.
British health minister Matt Hancock called the task of distribution "one of the biggest civilian logistical efforts that we've faced as a nation".
"It will be difficult. There will be challenges and complications, but I know that the NHS is equal to the task," he said.
Hancock also said there will be three modes of delivery for the vaccine: a network of 50 hospitals ready to receive the vaccine, specialized vaccination centers, and military operations.
🔦 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the Pfizer vaccine for emergency authorization and is expected to begin distribution stateside in the next few weeks.