Published: 07:22, 02 December 2020
| Updated: 17:35, 02 December 2020
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has given the green light for the jab developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
It paves the way for distribution of the vaccine, which is expected to start to happen within a matter of days, although health bosses have warned against complacency and reminded people to continue to stick to the Covid guidelines and restrictions.
The jab has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works in all age groups.
Priority groups are due to be care home residents, health and care staff, elderly people and those deemed clinically vulnerable.
Health secretary Matt Hancock revealed 400,000 people would initially have access to the vaccine which would "start small" before being ramped up and available to the "vast majority" in the New Year.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, he said 800,000 doses would be available with patients taking two jabs 21 days apart.
A 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.”
Arrangements for how the vaccine will be rolled out by the NHS are yet to be confirmed.
Managers from Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) met virtually on November 19 when it was suggested that three mass vaccination sites would be set up in Kent.
It was hoped the first would be ready for use by the start of this month but no details have been released.
The news of the vaccine's approval has been welcomed by MPs, including Tunbridge Wells representative Greg Clark, who last night was one of four Kent MPs to vote against the government's tier system.
Director of public health at Medway Council James Williams said: "It is encouraging that a Covid-19 vaccine has been approved and we will continue to offer our support to NHS colleagues who will be leading the rollout of the vaccine.
"However, we cannot be complacent and residents must continue to follow the new Tier 3 restrictions. The restrictions are in place to slow the spread of coronavirus and everyone has a responsibility to act now to help get us back to the things we love sooner.”
Chiefs at Medway NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Medway Maritime Hospital and is dealing with one of the worst infection rates in the country – said it was "great news" but warned about high infections.
In a tweet, they said: "Breaking the spread of the virus remains essential. Protect your family, loved ones and the NHS. If you need help from the NHS use 111 first."
It finished with reiterating the slogan "hands, face, space and test and trace".
Labour's opposition leader at Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple said the approval is "fantastic news" and guarded against complacency urging people to continue following the rules.
People taking part in a KentOnline poll yesterday were largely excited about the prospect of having a jab, with 47% of respondents saying they would want to be first in the queue, 39% taking a more cautious approach and wanting to know it is really safe, with just 13% saying 'no'.
In trials which started in July, Pfizer, which has a base in Sandwich, found just 94 of 43,538 participants contracted COVID-19.
Last month, announcing the results of the trials, Pfizer chairman and CEO Dr Albert Bourla said: "Today is a great day for science and humanity."