As a medical research charity, we understand and appreciate the value of vaccines as an important tool for maintaining public health. We appreciate the hard work and diligence of scientists and research teams around the world in creating vital vaccines to address the global health challenge presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This week, people in Wales were among the first in the world to receive a vaccination against Covid-19, following approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.
In the first wave of vaccine deliveries across the UK, Wales will receive almost 40,000 doses – this is enough for nearly 20,000 people. According to Welsh Government, over 1,700 people received the vaccination on the first day of the rollout and it is hoped that by the end of the vaccination programme, 1.4 million people in Wales will be inoculated against Covid-19.
Vaccines can work in different ways. The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab is an RNA vaccine. This means that the vaccine contains a sequence of messenger RNA (mRNA). When injected, the genetic code in the mRNA delivers instructions to help the body generate an immune response to the virus.
Typically, vaccine development takes many years. Thanks to dedicated global effort and investment, the development of the Covid vaccines have happened on a much shorter timeline – but they haven’t skipped any steps when it comes to safety and effectiveness. Safety trials begin with lab based tests before moving on to studies with small numbers of people. At each stage, development and testing will only progress if safety data is good, as it has been for this Covid-19 vaccine. The effectiveness of the vaccine can then be tested with large numbers of volunteers – in this case, around 40,000 people. Finally the regulator will review all the data and decide whether the vaccine is safe and effective enough to be approved. All of the work is checked and verified independently to ensure the highest levels of quality.
Monitoring and checks continue even after a vaccine has been approved to ensure there are no further side effects or long term risks. For example, the MHRA is currently recommending that those with a significant history of allergy to medicines, food or vaccines do not receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. This has been introduced as a precautionary measure after two NHS workers with a history of serious allergies had reactions shortly after receiving the vaccine. Both workers received treatment for their reaction and are now fine.
In Wales, priority will be given at first to those over-80, frontline NHS staff and care home workers. The vaccine is given in 2 doses and takes 28 days to build a full immunity to Covid-19, so ongoing measures such as handwashing, face coverings and social distancing continue to be really important during the rollout of the vaccine. Public Health Wales has produced a comprehensive guide to the vaccine and lots more information, including details of the rollout across Wales can be found on their website:
Ann Tate, CEO of Cancer Research Wales said:
“The approval and initial rollout of the first Covid-19 vaccine is an important step in our response to the current pandemic. This success is a testament to the power of medical research to make a difference in people’s lives. We applaud the tireless efforts of those involved in the research of Covid-19 vaccines, and look forward to further positive developments in the months ahead.”