The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with officials saying it will be made available "from next week".
The move, a major step toward ending the pandemic, makes the UK one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe's deadly virus outbreak.
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Other countries aren't far behind: The US and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc.
A UK Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency [MHRA] to approve Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for use. This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
"The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation [JCVI] will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
"The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week."
The timetable for a vaccination against Covid-19 in New Zealand was looking like a March date - but not everyone would get a jab at the same time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week.
Details of the timing would take place later in the month.
"At this point, our expectation that we've been running to is more around the March date," Ardern said.
But she warned not everyone would receive the vaccination at the same time and the delivery timetable was far from set in stone.
Ardern said she had spoken with the German and French leaders about the different dates they expect vaccines to arrive in their countries.
"There's been speculation around December for some countries receiving vaccines - some claim it will be later in January - so at the moment while they're still in clinical trials there's still some ambiguity."
So far two vaccines have been announced for New Zealand - Pfizer and Janssen.
Pzifer's product could be in the country as early as March and is a two-dose vaccine that would cover 750,000 people.
Janssen's requires just one injection but would not get here until closer to September 2021, with two million initial doses and more to follow if needed.
Ardern has said the vaccine would be provided free.
New Zealand is set to receive the vaccine as one of only a handful of countries with a pre-purchase agreement.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called the UK decision "a historic moment".
"We are focusing on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world," Bourla said in a statement.
While the UK has ordered enough Pfizer vaccine for 20 million people, it's not clear how many will arrive by year's end and adding to the distribution challenges is that it must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.
Two doses three weeks apart are required for protection. First in line, the UK government says, are frontline health care workers and nursing home residents, followed by older adults.
British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned "we must first navigate a hard winter" of restrictions to try to curb the virus until there's enough vaccine to go around.
Every country has different rules for determining when an experimental vaccine is safe and effective enough to use.
Intense political pressure to be the first to roll out a rigorously scientifically tested shot coloured the race in the US and Britain, even as researchers pledged to cut no corners. In contrast, China and Russia have offered different vaccinations to their citizens ahead of late-stage testing.
The shots made by US-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech were tested in tens of thousands of people. And while that study isn't complete, early results suggest the vaccine is 95 per cent effective at preventing mild to severe Covid-19 disease.
The companies told regulators that of the first 170 infections detected in study volunteers, only eight were among people who'd received the actual vaccine and the rest had a dummy shot.
"This is an extraordinarily strong protection," Dr Ugur Sahin, BioNTech's CEO, recently told the Associated Press.
The companies also reported no serious side effects, although vaccine recipients may experience temporary pain and flu-like reactions immediately after injections.
But experts caution that a vaccine cleared for emergency use is still experimental and the final testing must be completed.
Still to be determined is whether the Pfizer-BioNTech shots protect against people spreading the coronavirus without showing symptoms.
Another question is how long protection lasts.
The vaccine also has been tested in only a small number of children, none younger than 12, and there's no information on its effects in pregnant women.
- with Daily Telegraph and AP