Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed presents at Downing Street COVID-19 vaccine briefing

The University of Liverpool’s Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed joined a panel of expert scientists to update the UK on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine announcement at a Downing Street technical briefing today.

The first COVID-19 vaccine for the UK has been given approval for use following a thorough review carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The decision by the UK regulatory authority was made with advice from the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body.

Sir Munir is Chair of the CHM Expert Working Group whose job is to advise CHM on the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and on the balance of benefit and risks prior to authorisation.

Speaking at the briefing, Sir Munir said: “The data show that this vaccine is 95% effective. It is effective in all the groups that were given the vaccine within the trial, irrespective of age, sex, race or country that they lived in.

“We’ve also looked at the safety of this. The safety of the vaccine is similar to other vaccines and most of the side effects are very mild and usually last for a day or so.

“We’ve been very careful to look at the quality of the vaccine, particularly given the need for storing the vaccine at ultra-low temperatures and we had visits from NHS colleagues to tell us what the deployment strategies were and we able to advise them as well on the stability issues that may be important for deployment.

“It’s important to note that what we have got is data relating to the vaccine up to this point. It is important that we undertake surveillance following the use of vaccines in the population, and we were very keen to recommend that the MHRA undertakes active surveillance of the vaccine after it is used, and this includes the use of yellow cards as well as a special active monitoring programme, which we will be inviting people to join.”

In his concluding remarks he said: “We are in the midst of a once in a century pandemic and I think this is a historic moment. The UK is now one step closer to providing a safe and effective vaccine to help in the fight against COVID-19 – a virus that has affected each and every one of us in some way, and this will help to save lives.”

Watch the full briefing: