After months of agonising wait for a COVID-19 vaccine to be made available to the masses, the United Kingdom (UK) has, on Wednesday, authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be made available across the country from next week.

With this move, Britain has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use.

The authorities say that the much-awaited vaccine would be made available across the nation from early next week.

The vaccine, seen as the “light at the end of the tunnel”, is perceived as the best bet for the international community, a much-coveted chance for the world to get back to some semblance of regularity even as it grapples amid a global pandemic which has claimed nearly 1.5 million lives and toppled the global economy.

“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use,” the government said.

“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

Britain’s vaccine committee will decide which priority groups will get the jab first such as care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and US biotech firm Moderna have reported preliminary findings of more than 90% effectiveness – an unexpectedly high rate – in trials of their vaccines, which are both based on new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Pfizer said Britain’s emergency use authorization marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.

Albert Bourla, the CEO of the American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, said, “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 UK,” said CEO Albert Bourla.

Pfizer had announced in November that it is moving ahead with its request of asking the US regulators to allow emergency use of its Covid-19 vaccine, which has shown 95 per cent efficacy.

Pfizer and another US company, Moderna, have broken all vaccine development speed records in their race for a cure over the last 10 months.

Pfizer and BioNTech had expected to produce a total of 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

(With agency inputs)