The key numbers behind Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine rollout

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3-min read
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 23 : An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and medical syringe with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and BioNTech German biotechnology company logos are seen in this creative photo. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and BioNTech announced positive early results on its phase 3 study of Covid-19 vaccine candidate. Primary efficacy analysis demonstrates BNT162b2 to be 95% effective in preventing infection of the virus, as media reported on 18 November 2020. Pfizer Inc, in partnership with German company BioNTech SE, plans to supply 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021. Pictured on November 23, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium, 23/11/2020 ( Photo by Vincent Kalut / Photonews via Getty Images)
The Pfizer and BionTech COVID vaccine has been approved in the UK (Getty)

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out next week following its approval in the UK.

Britain became the first country in the world to approve the jab on Wednesday, with Boris Johnson hailing the work of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which gave it the go-ahead.

The prime minister said: “It’s fantastic. The vaccine will begin to be made available across the UK from next week.

“It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

These are the key numbers behind the vaccine rollout which comes just 23 days since Pfizer/BioNTech published the first data from their final-stage clinical trial.

Watch: UK first in the world to approve Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine

21: The number of days between doses

In total two injections will be given 21 days apart.

Patients will start to gain immunity after the first dose but full protection does not occur until a week after the second booster jab.

800,000: The number of doses the UK says it has of the vaccine

Health secretary Matt Hancock said he expects to begin receiving the first shipment of 800,000 doses from Pfizer’s manufacturing centre in Belgium “within days”, and people will begin receiving jabs as soon as the NHS gets the vaccine.

Doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first months of next year.

The speed of the rollout depends on how fast Pfizer can manufacture and deliver the vaccine.

40 million doses ordered

Johnson said last month that UK had ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for just under a third of the population as two shots of the jab are needed per person to gain immunity.

The vaccine is 95% effective

Pfizer/BioNTech said last month final results from the late-stage trial of its COVID-19 vaccine showed it was 95% effective.

The companies said efficacy of the jab was consistent across age and ethnic groups, and there were no major side effects, a sign that the immunization could be employed broadly around the world.

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40,000 people involved in trials for vaccine

About 40,000 people were involved in the vaccine trials, with half receiving the vaccine and half receiving a placebo, with adverse effects only lasting for around a day.

Christophe Cuigniez, CEO of Cryonomic, a Belgium's company producing dry ice machines and containers which will be used for Covid-19 vaccines transportation, prepares dry ice in Ghent on December 2, 2020. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
The vaccine will need to be stored at -70C (-94F) while being transported. (Getty)

Vaccine needs to be store at -70C (-94F)

Distribution would be a challenge given the vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C (-94F), the sort of temperature typical of an Antarctic winter.

Pfizer has said the shots can be kept in thermal shipping boxes for up to 30 days, from up to 15 days previously guided.

Afterwards, the vaccine can be kept at fridge temperatures for up to five days.

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group, said while it had to be stored at - 70C, advice was being issued to the relevant agencies on how it could be deployed safely.

357 million vaccine doses ordered by the UK

Overall the UK has access to 357 million doses of vaccines from seven developers, according to the government.

It has also secured 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and has targeted a rollout to begin before Christmas.

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work