British officials authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, greenlighting the world’s first shot against the virus that’s backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.

The go-ahead for the vaccine developed by American drug maker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech comes as the virus surges again in the United States and Europe, putting pressure on hospitals and morgues in some places and forcing new rounds of restrictions that have devastated economies.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which licenses drugs in the U.K., recommended the vaccine could be used after it reviewed the results of clinical trials that showed the vaccine was 95% effective overall — and that it also offered significant protection for older people, among those most at risk of dying from the disease. But the vaccine remains experimental while final testing is done.

Meanwhile here in the United States, ABC News Radio is reporting an independent CDC advisory committee has approved guidance that the first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should be health care workers and adults in long-term care facilities.

The committee says health care workers put themselves at risk and are vital to carry out the vaccine program, while long-term care adults are at high risk and vaccination would provide maximum benefit by preventing the disease, and thereby reducing the burden on hospitals.

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