Brexit fears dismantled as Pfizer insists ‘no disruption’ expected to Covid jab roll-out

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The looming end of the Brexit transition period sparked concerns the arrival of the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine could be disrupted if no deal is struck with the European Union soon. But Pfizer, half the brain behind the vaccine alongside German pharmaceutical giant BioNTech, insisted the roll-out is expected to proceed without issues regardless of border concerns. BBC correspondent Nick Beake said: “A huge operation is underway to get the vaccine, in the first instance, to the United Kingdom.

“We were told a little about how they’re transporting it, basically they’ve got these thermo-boxes which keep the vaccine at very low temperatures, about -70C. And in each box, they’ve got between 1,000 and 5,000 doses of the vaccine.

“They’ve got real-time tracking so they can make sure the temperature doesn’t get too hot while the vaccine is on its way to the UK.

“Interestingly, as we’ve been hearing, most people know by now, at the end of this month Britain leaves the Brexit transition period, in other words it leaves the EU rules and I asked the company behind the vaccine whether they’re worried about disruption at the border.

“They say they’re confident they’ll keep getting the vaccine to the United Kingdom. They’ll be moving it either by lorry or by plane, which certainly is a huge operation.”

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Mr Beake added: ‘They say they can achieve it and it will be with people in the UK very soon, 800,000 doses in the first instance ready to be rolled out.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed news of the approval of the vaccine as he claimed the UK had succeeded in securing the jab thanks to Brexit.

But the suggestion sparked a furious reaction from across the European Union because of the international team that helped discover and test the vaccine.

While the jab is currently being packaged in Belgium, Turkish-German researchers Dr Ugur Sahin and Dr Ozlem Tureci developed the jab with the support of Pfizer, an American multinational corporation.

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Dr June Raine, the head of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) which authorised the vaccine this week, also warned the vaccine was approved thanks to European regulation.

Dr Raine said: “We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law, which exist until 1 January.”

But despite the criticism, the UK has also received praise for becoming the first country in the world to authorise the use of a tested COVID-19 jab since the beginning of the pandemic.

Russia and China both announced earlier in the year they had also developed a jab to combat the deadly virus but the lack of scientific evidence of their efficacy left the international scientific community doubting the safety of the vaccine.

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The British Government confirmed 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have already been pre-booked, though most of these will only arrive next year.

The first round of vaccinations will cover NHS staff and care workers as well as the elderly and most vulnerable members of society.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the MHRA decision to approve the vaccine but warned protective measures will still be needed for some time.

He tweeted: “The approval of a vaccine is a huge step towards normality, but the rules in your area have not changed.

“Please keep following the restrictions to protect those around you.”

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