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Vaccines have changed our world. They have been used successfully against a variety of diseases, including smallpox, polio, measles and influenza. You have saved many millions of lives.

Therefore, confirmation of the UK’s first regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine is of enormous importance.

The decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was only made after a thorough review of safety and effectiveness.

The decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was made with advice from the Commission for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHM), the government’s independent scientific advisory body.

As the MHRA has insisted, public safety has always been a top priority.

It is important to emphasize that the MHRA is recognized worldwide for requiring high safety, quality and efficacy standards for every vaccine.

The rate at which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed is unprecedented. It reflects the global emergency the virus has created – and the scale of the response by scientists, backed by massive public and private investment.

We already lived in a time of unprecedented and rapid technological progress. The scientific community just raised the bar even higher.

A number of other Covid-19 vaccines are at various stages of development, while another is currently being considered by the MHRA.

An unprecedented vaccination program can now begin, a major logistical exercise that will last for many months. Each person receiving the vaccine needs two doses.

The MHRA will set strict conditions for vaccine use, while the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization) will determine which population groups should receive the vaccine first. The launch will take up much of 2021.

Health and social workers – including nursing home staff – are expected to be among the first priority groups. This also applies to residents of nursing homes.

The JCVI recognizes that the nature of individual vaccines requires some flexibility in terms of operational constraints.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine presents a particular logistical challenge and is probably best suited to large vaccination centers. Future alternative vaccines should be better suited for mobile unit deployment in individual nursing homes.

We advise the public to look to the future with a mixture of optimism, determination and patience.

The vaccination program will take time and we will all have to wait our turn while priority groups take their places.

We must all redouble our efforts to limit the spread of the virus. Please continue to heed public health advice – it is as important today as it was when we first heard the word coronavirus.

2020 has been an incredibly difficult year and the first half of 2021 will require more casualties and more disruption to our daily lives.

We can get through this if we all keep doing the right things: look out for each other and protect health care.

Better times are coming – let’s face them together.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael McBride

Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Ian Young