By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - The UK government has formally asked the country’s medicines regulatory agency to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for authorization to use.
"If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of the rollout next year,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at a news conference, adding that the vaccinations will be carried out by the National Health Service (NHS).
The government will prioritize those who are most at risk, and work with devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to ensure fair access for all, Hancock said.
The reproduction number, or R number, of coronavirus in the UK fell from a maximum of 1.2 to a maximum of 1.1, according to the British government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
An R number of 1.1 means that every 10 people go on to infect 11 others.
Meanwhile, a new study by the University of Oxford suggested those previously infected with coronavirus were "highly unlikely" to become ill with the virus a second time for at least six months after their initial infection.
UK government data released on Friday showed that 20,252 new virus cases were reported in the country over the past 24 hours.
This is a decrease of 8.8%, or 15,000 cases, over the last week. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at more than 1.47 million.
The data also showed that there were a further 511 deaths over the past 24 hours across the UK.
This is an increase of 5.4%, or 153 fatalities, over the last week. The total number of deaths now stands at 54,286.