U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press secretary suggested he may be injected with the vaccine on live television. Image courtesy of Paul Ellis, Reuters. 

By: Jen Hasbun

The United Kingdom officially granted emergency-use authorization of Pfizer and BioNTech’s experimental coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 2, becoming the first western nation to do so ahead of the United States.

Pfizer had previously reported that the vaccine’s efficacy rate was over 90 percent effective in treating patients for the virus. According to a report by The New York Times, Russia and China had authorized other vaccines without testing them first, making Pfizer’s the first fully-tested vaccine in the world to receive approval.

“We’ve been waiting and hoping for the day when the searchlights of science would pick out our invisible enemy and give us the power to stop that enemy from making us ill,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson at an evening news conference, “and now, the scientists have done it.”

The U.K. government ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine to be delivered from Belgium, enough to vaccinate an estimated 20 million people. British officials plan to distribute the first 800,000 doses beginning next week in what will be the launch of the world’s first mass-immunization campaign against the coronavirus.

The announcement prompted questions over whether the vaccine will receive approval in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that it will convene on Dec. 10 to determine whether Pfizer’s vaccine is eligible to receive stateside approval; they will also meet on Dec. 17 to discuss a potential vaccine being developed by Moderna, an American biotechnology company.

“We believe it is really the start of the end of the pandemic,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said of the developments in an exclusive interview with CNN.