While the COVID-19 caused a great uproar worldwide, companies have been working tirelessly to develop a vaccine in record breaking times. Now, the UK has become the first country to green light a COVID-19 vaccine, which is being rolled out in the country starting this week. The COVID-19 vaccine has been developed by Pfizer, in collaboration with the German startup BioNTech. The vaccine has been tested by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for safety, quality and effectiveness.

Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine and the German startup that helped accelerate its development. 

UK gives green light o Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine

Out of 51 candidates that are currently in clinical evaluations, Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine has zoomed ahead. This is due to the fact that in large trials, the shot is able to reduce the risk of developing Covid-19 symptoms by over 90%. It is also worth noting that unlike Russia or China, who authorised vaccines without Phase 3 clinical trial data, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has gone through clinical trials. However, complete details of the trials are yet to be published in medical journals. 

This move by the UK government to green light the rollout also increases pressure on the US’ FDA. As per a report, an explanation was requested from Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, by the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. It was regarding why the agency has not moved to authorise the distribution of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, or another vaccine developed by the biotechnology firm Moderna.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out just ahead of Christmas in the UK. It is believed that if a large group of the population is vaccinated, the economy could also start to recover at a much faster pace. 

Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments, says “The gap between Wild Wednesday and Black Friday has continued to narrow, falling from 25% at the beginning of the day to just 13.8%. However, even with some stores staying open until much later this evening, it’s looking unlikely that today will overtake Black Friday. Instead, retailers will probably have to wait until Saturday – the first non-working day following stores reopening this week – to hit that milestone. “

He adds, “Separately, with the news that the UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, we are hopeful of a positive impact on consumer confidence, paving the way for a brighter Christmas for UK retail.”

BioNTech: The German biotechnology champ

BioNTech (short for Biopharmaceutical New Technologies) is a Germany-based biotechnology company. It was founded in Mainz by German Turkish husband and wife duo Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci in 2008. Sahin currently heads BioNTech as its CEO while Tureci is the firm’s chief medical officer. The company was started back when the duo sold its existing Ganymed Pharmaceuticals company to Japan’s Astellas for about €1.3 billion.

“The Emergency Use Authorization in the U.K. will mark the first time citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunised against COVID-19,” Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech says. “We believe that the roll-out of the vaccination program in the U.K. will reduce the number of people in the high-risk population being hospitalised. Our aim is to bring a safe and effective vaccine upon approval to the people who need it. The data submitted to regulatory agencies around the world are the result of a scientifically rigorous and highly ethical research and development program.”

The two firms could make notable profit

The two companies, Pfizer and BioNTech, are also expected to make a notable amount of money from the global sale of their vaccine. As per a report by The Guardian, the two companies are expected to evenly split €10.73 billion, which could be brought in by the global sale of their vaccine. Half of the split for Pzifer is estimated to be more than last year’s pneumonia vaccine, a US pharmaceutical group’s best-selling product, which generated €4.79 billion last year.

Pfizer and BioNTech are currently working on delivering 40 million doses of the mRNA-based vaccine to the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The delivery of the vaccine is said to occur in stages, throughout 2020 and 2021 for ensureing “an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts.” The first batch of doses are expcted to be delivered in the U.K. in the coming days, with complete delivery fulfilment expected in 2021.

The two companies claim that their combined manufacturing network can supply globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. BioNTech produced vaccine candidate doses for the clinical trials and the company’s existing mRNA production sites in Mainz and Idar-Oberstein, Germany, will enable it to produce the vaccine for commercial supply. In a press release, the German startup notes it will increase its manufacturing capacity in 2021. This will happen when its third site in Germany starts manufacturing to boost its global vaccine supply capacity.