The public health message that people can trust the safety of the coronavirus vaccine is “very important”, said the leader of the body that has approved Pfizer’s injections.
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said of Pfizer’s treatment that “there is no doubt whatsoever that this is a very safe and highly effective vaccine”.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show how important public health messages are to ensure that people actually use vaccines, he said: “This is very important. And I really want to emphasize that the highest standards of supervision, safety and effectiveness and quality have been met, international standards. “
Raine said he hopes the first person will be given the vaccine in a few days.
“This will help us turn the corner,” he said. “In fact none of us has not been affected by this pandemic, and our organization, like the rest, has been completely focused on doing our job to be able to help defeat this terrible disease.”
Raine, 67, with a 35-year career in public health, became chief executive of Britain’s medical regulator last year. The final decision regarding the approval of other vaccines that are expected to be generally used will also rest with the body.
He uses his appearance on the Marr program to emphasize the high standards of safety applied to vaccine launches.
Last week, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to suggest the UK was rushing in approving the Pfizer vaccine and not reviewing the data as carefully as American regulators do. He later apologized and said that he “didn’t mean to imply any carelessness even if it came out that way”.
On Sunday, Raine said the safety monitoring process would continue, with vaccine use in practice.
“It’s continuous, it’s real time, and we will share any new information that comes to light,” he said. “But my overall message is that the safety profile of the Covid-19 vaccine is really no different from other vaccines – it might have mild symptoms, it might go away in a day or two, and nothing of a serious nature, so you can be confident there. . “
He also said that anyone who gets a flu shot should do so before getting the coronavirus vaccine.
Raine spoke after a report in Sunday’s newspaper that the Queen would take the Pfizer vaccine in a few weeks and would publish it once she did. Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the claim.
After Marr referred to the report, he said: “I think the news you just gave us is humbling, and that is all we are doing here at MHRA.
“We are a public health organization, we work as full partners, if I can say, in the public health family, and our aim is utmost to protect every member of the population, Your Excellency of course, too.”
Raine was also asked about when the MHRA would agree to split the vaccine package into smaller packages for nursing homes.
He told Marr: “We have agreed how the vaccine can be put in small packages, but clearly what we are doing is providing advice and guidance on how well, carefully, it is done.
“This is a special vaccine, it needs to be kept very cold, and then when the bigger packs are broken down into smaller ones to be taken to where they will be given, it needs to be done very carefully.”