Speed Reads

Solving COVID

U.K. approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread emergency use, starting next week

Britain's medicine and health-care regulator, the MHRA, gave emergency approval Wednesday for the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, making the U.K. the first country to green-light the promising vaccine for mass rollout. Britain has already ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, or enough to inoculate 20 million people, and the first doses should arrive in the coming days. "Help is on its way," Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: "The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week."

Pfizer and fellow drugmaker Moderna have reported a 95 percent effectiveness rate for their vaccines from large human clinical trials. Both vaccines use a new approach, relying on messenger RNA, or mRNA, to teach the body how to fight off the new coronavirus. Moderna has also applied for emergency use authorization in Britain and the U.S., and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve both vaccines in the next two or three weeks. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows summoned FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing on Tuesday to explain why the FDA hasn't already approved Pfizer's vaccine, Axios reports.