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U.K. Clears Pfizer Covid Vaccine for First Shots Next Week

A major milestone in the fight against Covid-19.
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The United Kingdom has granted emergency-use authorization to Pfizer and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine, Bloomberg reports.

Why It Matters: With the approval, the U.K. becomes the first western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine. Pfizer-BioNTech had previously released data showing their vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infections. The shot will be rolled out in Britain starting next week.

  • The U.K. had indicated it would move quickly on reviewing the vaccine’s efficacy and safety data, and “doctors across the country were put on standby for a possible rollout.”

Now the attention turns to the United States and European Union, where Pfizer-BioNTech is also seeking approval from the FDA and EU regulators. A decision could come as early as mid-December.

Economic Boost: A successful vaccine coupled with “possible stabilization in U.S.-China trade ties” would accelerate the global economy’s growth by 4.9% in 2021. It shrank about 4% this year, according to Bloomberg Economics.

  • It could also lift the U.K.’s economy by roughly 6%. Britain’s GDP fell 11.4% this year, the most significant contraction in 300 years.

The Bigger Picture: The U.K., and the rest of the world, for that matter, still needs other vaccines to win approval to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Britain alone ordered enough doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to inoculate 20 million people, or under one-third of its total population.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech said they can produce 1.3 billion doses next year, but a significant chunk has been spoken for in deals with European countries, the U.S. and Japan.

Meanwhile, Moderna’s vaccine candidate is right behind Pfizer-BioNTech in the race for approval and AstraZeneca-Oxford’s shot needs to gather more data due to dosing discrepancy.

Justin Oh:

From my conversations with analysts closer to the space, it looks like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will face a daunting challenge in creating enough doses to keep up with the orders. Vaccines will be distributed over time starting with high-risk patients and healthcare workers and gradually reaching the mass population. 

I am still hopeful about a 2021 recovery, but I believe it will look more like a line that increases over the year in a lumpy fashion rather than a step-change reversion back to 2019 levels.

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