Image of Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D., chief scientific adviser, Operation Warp Speed

The United Kingdom has become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. British health officials on Wednesday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s candidate for immediate emergency use.

The announcement should be encouraging to Americans, who are awaiting a decision on the same vaccine candidate, said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other federal officials on Wednesday. The timing of the UK’s approval is useful as a U.S. advisory body this week recommended that nursing home residents and healthcare staff be among the very first in line for vaccination. 

Anyone with concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine approval process in the United States can now look to a decision made outside of the American political sphere, added Moncef Slaoui, the top scientist advising Operation Warp Speed.

“The fact is that an external regulatory agency of the highest regulatory standard equivalent to the FDA … has approved the Pfizer vaccine,” he said at a briefing on vaccine progress. “I hope this will be more evidence for the American population that the data with these vaccines are clear, are transparent and demonstrate that they are effective and safe for use in the general population.”