A major milestone has been reached in the UK’s fight against coronavirus today. The drug regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) has granted emergency authorisation to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that has shown an efficacy of 95 percent in trials. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was the first country in the world to order the vaccine, securing 40 million doses.
Despite the remarkable achievement, daunting challenges lie ahead, not least the logistics of distribution.
The vaccine must be stored at -70C, which means it it will have to be housed and distributed in hospitals, which have the storage facilities required.
The two dosage requirement will also slow down the effectiveness of the virus, which will reinforce the importance of keeping social restrictions in place.
There is also the uncertainties surrounding uptake – what percentage of the general public will be apprehensive or resist taking the vaccine altogether?
The message communicated by the government and public health authorities will be critical in this area.
Coronavirus – main symptoms
The encouraging news should not invite complacency about symptom awareness – one of the most important tools needed to contain transmission.
According to the NHS, the main symptoms are:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
“Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms,” explains the health body.
How to respond
According to UK health advice, if you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:
- Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
- You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.
A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.