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UK worries about vaccine acceptance

The UK government celebrates rapid approval of a corona vaccine. But there are fears that the urgent process could raise doubts about the safety of the vaccinations. Distribution is not easy either.

London (dpa) - In Great Britain, after the rapid approval of the corona vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer, concerns are growing as to whether a large part of the population can actually be vaccinated.

The government's deputy chief medical advisor for England , Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, tried Wednesday to dispel doubts about the safety of the new drug. He himself strongly recommended that his 78-year-old mother get vaccinated. Van-Tam told the BBC that he was "very convinced" of the assessment by the British Medicines Agency .

Great Britain is one of the countries that has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. According to official government figures, more than 60,000 people have now died after being infected with the coronavirus. Experts believe that the actual numbers are even higher.

The British Medicines Agency granted the Mainz-based pharmaceutical company Biontech and its US partner Pfizer emergency approval for their corona vaccine on Wednesday. Great Britain is the first country ever to have issued a clearance certificate for the vaccine - even before all member states of the European Union.

British experts assure that the examination was carried out extremely thoroughly. But there is criticism from the EU and the USA . "You really rushed approval," said US virologist Anthony Fauci in a podcast on Thursday. A similar approach is not conceivable in the USA, because many people there are already skeptical about vaccinations.

The UK government hopes the vaccinations will drastically reduce deaths. The first phase of the immunization program is scheduled to begin next week. It is aimed primarily at elderly and weakened people as well as residents of nursing homes. It is the largest mass vaccination in the history of Great Britain.

"We could theoretically eliminate 99 percent of hospital stays and deaths related to Covid-19," said Van-Tam. The prerequisite is that the vaccination is widely accepted by the population. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to answer questions and concerns in a Facebook Question Time on Thursday. A survey shortly before the vaccine was approved had shown that almost 70 percent of Britons would be willing to be vaccinated.

Van-Tam also warned of euphoria and carelessness in dealing with the pandemic. "We have to make sure that people understand that this is not an immediate way out of anything," said the scientist. There are still some hard winter months ahead of you. People would have to follow the distance rules - regardless of whether they received a vaccination or not.

The first doses of the vaccine should arrive in Great Britain on Thursday. The government had previously admitted that administration in nursing homes must be postponed. The vaccinations will initially be administered in 50 clinics in the country. Doctors' offices are to be added later. Initially only units with 975 cans are available because of the complicated storage at minus 70 degrees.

The government, which has so far received a lot of criticism for its handling of the pandemic, celebrated the approval as a success. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on the radio that the UK was able to be the first country to approve the vaccine because it "appears to have the best drug agency". This is “much better” than that of France, Belgium or the USA. "That doesn't surprise me at all, because we are a much better country than any one of them, is it?"

A spokesman for the EU Commission replied that the fight against the pandemic is "not a football competition". "We're talking about people's lives and health." Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) had emphasized that Germany had consciously decided against an emergency approval in order to be able to examine more thoroughly.

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