Last week, the United Kingdom became the first country to grant emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine. BNT162b2, the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX), is already shipping in Britain while Americans are still waiting for a vaccine. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Dec. 3, 2020, Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina and Fool.com writer Keith Speights discuss why and how the U.K. beat the U.S. in authorizing a COVID vaccine.
Corinne Cardina: Keith, our vaccine race, has turned into a full-out sprint. In fact, we got the very first greenlight of this whole thing just this week. On Wednesday, the United Kingdom authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Pfizer's stock was up 12 percent in the past five days, which is not nothing for a company that has a market cap of $226 billion. BioNTech stock is up 14 percent in the past five days.
Here's a little bit of some highlights on this UK approval or authorization. The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said that folks will begin getting vaccinated next week when 800,000 doses will become available.
So Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, these are the ones that have to be kept ultracold. To address those logistical challenges, there are 50 hospitals participating in the first rounds of vaccination. They are actually building specialist vaccination centers. Certain general practitioners and pharmacies that already have cold storage facilities will be administering it as well. The bulk of the UK's 40 million dose order is expected in the new year.
But Hancock, the Health Secretary, he said he thinks the country could return to some normality by Easter and restrictions could be over by the summer. Some really good news hopefully is foreshadowing some good news that will happen in the US. But Keith, what do you think about all this? It seems like the UK was able to move really quickly.
Keith Speights: They were. It nearly doesn't seem fair, Corinne! The British got the Rolling Stones and the Beatles first. They had The Office first, and now they're getting the vaccine first, so we're just behind.
They were able to move quickly for a couple of reasons. First of all, their process is different than ours. Well, actually, let me just start by saying here's what happens in the US. In the US FDA regulators pull over the raw data from the vaccine makers and they pull over those results in detail and examine them.
The British do it a little differently. They lean heavily on the company's own analysis of the data. That allows them to move more quickly than their American counterparts. Now, some people might say, well, that's not a great thing because you could ensure safety more effectively by looking at that raw data, but that's what the UK does and that helps them move more quickly.
Also, like the FDA, the UK uses Advisory Committees, but they take it in a different approach, whereas, in the US the Advisory Committee doesn't convene until well after the submission of an authorization or of an approval. Then they look at all the data. In the UK, the Advisory Committee can meet as often as it wants to and look at data along the way.
That might be something that we should consider doing in the US. I think that's a good idea. Those two things helped them move more quickly. Of course, the UK is exiting from the European Union, and so they weren't limited by some of the constraints that the EU has, so that allowed them to move faster than the EU.
Corinne Cardina: Nice say. Small bright spot of Brexit. Very interesting.