• Kushal Kumar Jha

UK & Russia announce plans for mass COVID-19 vaccination drive | check details here

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United Kingdom (UK) on Wednesday became the first country to approve Pfizer/BioNtech's COVID-19 vaccination candidate and announce its mass vaccination plans. The announcement by the UK was followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin's order declaring large scale vaccination in the country with its indigenous Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccination candidate. The highly contagious virus has killed around 1.49 million people globally and has infected over 64 million people so far. Russia's Sputnik V had become the World's first registered COVID-19 vaccine back in August.

UK vaccination plans with Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine: The public health officials in the UK are planning to offer the vaccine first to those who are most vulnerable to death from the COVID-19 or whose jobs put them at high risk of contracting the virus or spreading it to others. With more supplies becoming available, the aim is to make the vaccine gradually available to others as well. The UK is expected to receive 40 million doses for its citizens by the end of 2021, which should cover up to a third of its population. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that they will start receiving the first shipment of 800,000 doses of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine within a few days and the vaccination drive will start as soon as it arrives in the country. Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccination candidate requires two doses three weeks apart for successful vaccination. The British regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), says that the Pfizer/BioNtech's COVID-19 vaccine which claims around 95% efficacy rate is safe for rollout. The vaccine is jointly produced by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech had recently claimed trials suggested it works well in people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.

Russia's vaccination plans with Sputnik V: President Putin clarified that more than 2 million doses of Sputnik V will be made available for public use within the next few days. The Sputnik V vaccine candidate has demonstrated “high efficacy” in the interim data, suggesting an efficacy rate of 92%, according to the Russian authorities. Sputnik V is a human adenovirus vaccine that uses two weakened and genetically modified common cold viruses to carry the code for the cells in the human body to build the Covid-19 spike protein (the spiky outer layer of the SARS-CoV-2 virus). The body’s immune system is expected to recognise this spike protein as a threat and develop an immune response to attack it so that the real Covid-19 virus would not be able to cause harm when it tries to attack. While President Putin announced the registration of Sputnik V back in August, a second inoculation was approved in October, even as Phase III trials to establish safety and efficacy are still taking place. "This gives us the opportunity to start if not mass, but large-scale vaccination, of course, as we agreed, of the two risk groups - doctors and teachers," Putin told government officials. He tasked Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova to "organize the work in such a way so that large-scale vaccination starts by the end of next week."

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