LONDON - The United Kingdom has become the first country to approve the use of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE.

According to the country’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the vaccine is safe to be mass-produced, with the UK government having ordered 40 million doses to vaccinate 20 million people.

As reported by the BBC, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said elderly people in care homes and care home staff are on top of the priority list, followed by people over 80 years of age and health personnel.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the public to remain cautious and vigilant as logistical challenges remain during the ongoing pandemic.

“It's going to continue to be tough for some sectors—but until the vaccine is deployed our plan relies on all of us making sacrifices to protect the ones we love,” said Mr Johnson at a press conference on Thursday (3/12).

In an official statement, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that the company and BioNTech are focused on “safely supplying a high-quality vaccine around the world”.

“This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK,” Mr Bourla said.

“With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.” (MS)