LONDON - England's National Health Service (NHS) is looking at ways to deploy Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine in care homes with the medical regulator, but there is no guarantee that it will happen, deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said. Britain became the first country to approve the vaccine candidate developed by Germany's BioNTech and Pfizer on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin a crucial mass inoculation programme. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "fantastic news" but warned of logistical challenges in distributing the vaccine, which has to be stored at -70C (-94F). Although it can be kept for five days in a regular fridge, Van-Tam said there was a limit to how often it can be taken out of a fridge and put back, with implications for its distribution to care homes. "The NHS, the (medicine regulator) MHRA are working really hard, right now, to try and find a solution, so that we can get this into care homes if we possibly can," Van-Tam told ITV's "This Morning" programme in an interview on Thursday. "At this point, there is no absolute assurance of that, because... one thing we can't do is... end up with a vaccine that's been handled incorrectly, and then isn't properly viable at the end of the distribution chain." Britain has said that care home residents and their carers are the highest priority to get the vaccine, along with those over 80, although the doctor who chairs the vaccine committee that drew up the list has said operational practicalities will influence the roll-out. Pfizer UK country manager Ben Osborn said the firm had experience in delivering around 1 billion sterile injectables a year to 165 countries and territories. "I sincerely hope that this gives the people of the UK confidence that we're ready now to deliver the vaccine to all four corners of our nation," he told journalists on Wednesday. REUTERS
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