Britain Makes Final Preparations for First Round of COVID-19 Vaccinations

Britain is on the eve of launching a COVID-19 vaccination campaign.   Staffers with the nation’s National Health Service, nursing home residents and their caregivers on Tuesday will begin to receive the first of two doses of a vaccine jointly developed by U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.  The initiative will start nearly a week after the government’s medical regulatory agency granted emergency approval for the vaccine, making Britain the first western nation ready to begin mass inoculations.  The approval came weeks after Pfizer announced the vaccine had been shown to be over 90% effective after its final, widespread clinical trial. The entrance to the Pfizer UK headquarters is seen in Tadworth, Britain, Dec. 2, 2020.Britain received 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Sunday, the first of a total of 40 million it has purchased. Delivery of the vaccine is complicated by the fact that it must be stored in super-cold refrigerators at temperatures below 70 degrees Celsius.   British news outlets reported Sunday that 94-year-old Queen Elizabeth II and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, will announce when they are to receive the vaccine, hoping to reassure the British public of its safety.  FILE – A research scientist works inside a laboratory of India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest maker of vaccines, which is working on vaccines against COVID-19 in Pune, India, May 18, 2020.In a separate development, the Serum Institute of India has applied for emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine under development by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford.  Serum, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is leaning heavily towards the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine because it can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the super-cold requirements of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.   And Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Sunday the country has received a shipment of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac biotechnology company.  The vaccine is still undergoing testing in Indonesia, where the government is making final preparations for an initiative to inoculate as many as 270 million people.   United Statesthe United States, health regulators will meet Thursday to consider whether to authorize emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, followed by a second meeting a week later to discuss another vaccine under development by U.S.-based biotechnology company Moderna. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News Sunday that if a panel of experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Pfizer vaccine, “within hours [health workers] can be vaccinating” patients.  FILE – Medical personnel check on a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Nov. 19, 2020.U.S. authorities have decided that medical and emergency workers as well as employees and residents of nursing homes are at the highest risk of contracting the infection and will be first in line to be inoculated. Azar said that 30 million to 40 million doses of the vaccine will be available by the end of the year, with millions more doses to be manufactured in the first half of 2021.  President-elect Joe Biden has said his transition team has seen “no detailed plan” for distribution of the vaccines. But Azar said, “With all due respect, that’s just nonsense. This is being micromanaged” by the outgoing Trump administration.  FILE – A volunteer is injected with a vaccine as he participates in a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination study at the Research Centers of America, in Hollywood, Florida, Sept. 24, 2020.In one national poll, about four in 10 people say they will refuse to get the shot, either because they are wary of vaccinations in general or the coronavirus inoculation specifically.  Some Americans Worry About Safety of Coronavirus VaccineA significant number of Americans express concern over accelerated timeline in developing COVID inoculationsBut Azar said that “positive experiences” of people being inoculated “will drive more people” to get the necessary two shots a month apart to become vaccinated.  Biden said last week that when he is inaugurated January 20, he will ask that Americans wear a mask for 100 days to try to curb the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.  The world has more than 67.1 million total COVID-19 cases, including more than 1.5 million deaths.  The United States leads the world in both categories, with 14.7 million total cases and 282,312 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

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