UK gets ready for roll-out of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine this week

  • The first doses of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are set to be administered on Tuesday
  • Initial doses that have arrived from Belgium are being stored in secure locations across the country

LONDON: UK is preparing to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine this week. As per the government, the shots will be initially available at hospitals before distributing stocks to doctors’ clinics, Reuters reported. Britain gave emergency use approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week. “This coming week will be an historic moment as we begin vaccination against Covid-19,” Matt Hancock, the U.K.’s health secretary, said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents.”

When will Britain start vaccinating?

The first doses are set to be administered on Tuesday, with the National Health Service (NHS) giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, frontline healthcare workers and care home staff and residents.

Britain has ordered 40 million doses

In total, Britain has ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the country of 67 million. About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week.

Initial doses that have arrived from Belgium are being stored in secure locations across the country, where they will be quality checked, the health ministry said.

Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine storage

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at -70C (-94F) and only lasts five days in a regular fridge. For that reason, the health ministry said the vaccine would first be administered in 50 hospitals. It said it would take a few hours to defrost each vaccine and prepare it for use. Rather than run clinics in individual surgeries, groups of local doctors will operate more than 1,000 vaccination centres across the country, the government said.

Challenges for storage of vaccine

One of the major challenges over the coming weeks will be to ensure the vaccine is kept at the right temperature. The shot must be stored at about minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Farenheit) and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used, according to NHS England. Once defrosted, the shot has a lifespan of days. Each box of vaccines, containing five packs of 975 doses, must be unpacked manually and the temperature downloaded to check it hasn’t changed in transit.

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