Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The British government on Wednesday became the first Western nation to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that's shown to be better than 90% effective.
London's health ministry announced it has accepted a recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to give emergency approval for the vaccine, which officials said will be made available next week.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved after late-stage clinical data showed it is 95% effective in protecting people over 65 years old from coronavirus. No serious safety concerns were found among clinical volunteers.
The British government said in October it's secured 40 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine to be distributed in stages, "to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts."
An official committee will soon make final recommendations for which people in Britain will receive priority for the vaccine. It's expected that long-term care home residents, health workers, the elderly and the clinically vulnerable will be first to receive it.
"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," the British government said in a statement Wednesday announcing the vaccine's approval.
"This is fantastic news," British health minister Matt Hancock told Sky News. "The MHRA, the fiercely independent regulator, has clinically authorized the vaccine for rollout. The NHS stands ready to make that happen."
"Today's Emergency Use Authorization in the U.K. marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19," added Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla.
The British government said last week it has secured 357 million vaccine doses from seven different providers, including the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, Novavax and Moderna.