London (AP) – In Britain, following the rapid approval of the corona vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer, concerns are growing as to whether a large proportion of the population can actually be vaccinated.
The government’s deputy chief medical adviser for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, tried on Wednesday to dispel doubts about the safety of the new drug. He himself strongly recommended that his 78-year-old mother get vaccinated. Van-Tam told the BBC he was “very confident” of the British Medicines Agency’s assessment.
Great Britain is one of the countries particularly hard hit by the pandemic. According to official government figures, more than 60,000 people have now died after being infected with the corona virus. Experts believe that the actual numbers are even higher.
The British Medicines Agency on Wednesday granted Mainz-based pharmaceutical company Biontech and its US partner Pfizer emergency approval for their corona vaccine. Great Britain is the first country to ever issue an approval certificate for the vaccine – ahead of all Member States of the European Union.
British experts assure that the investigation has been carried out extremely thoroughly. But there is criticism from the EU and the US. “You really rushed approval,” said American virologist Anthony Fauci in a podcast Thursday. A comparable approach is not conceivable in the US, because many people there are already skeptical about vaccinations.
The UK government hopes the vaccinations will drastically reduce the number of deaths. The first phase of the immunization program is scheduled for next week. It primarily targets the elderly and frail people and residents of nursing homes. It is the largest mass vaccination in Britain’s history.
“We could theoretically eliminate 99 percent of hospitalizations and deaths associated with Covid-19,” said Van-Tam. The condition is that the vaccination is widely accepted by the population. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to answer questions and concerns in a Facebook Question Hour on Thursday. A study shortly before the vaccine was approved found that nearly 70 percent of Britons would be willing to get a vaccine.
Van-Tam also warned of euphoria and carelessness in dealing with the pandemic. “We need to make people understand that this is not an immediate way out,” the scientist said. There are still a number of tough winter months ahead. People should follow the distance rules – regardless of whether they received a vaccination or not.
The first doses of the vaccine should arrive in Britain on Thursday. Earlier, the government had admitted that administration in nursing homes should be delayed. The vaccinations will initially be administered in 50 clinics across the country. Doctor’s offices will be added later. Initially only units with 975 cans will be available due to the complicated storage at minus 70 degrees.
The government, which has been heavily criticized for dealing with the pandemic, celebrated the approval as a success. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on the radio that the UK could be the first country to approve the vaccine because it “appears to have the best drug agency.” This is “much better” than that of France, Belgium or the US. “That doesn’t surprise me at all, because we are a much better country than any of them, aren’t we?”
A spokesman for the European Commission replied that the fight against the pandemic is “not a football competition”. “We’re talking about people’s lives and health.” Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) had emphasized that Germany had deliberately waived an emergency permit in order to be able to investigate more thoroughly.