BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine will be sent by plane or ferry to UK - executive

A dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination of BioNTech and Pfizer is pictured in this undated handout photo, as Britain became the first western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, in Mainz, Germany. BioNTech SE 2020, all rights reserved/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - BioNTech will send the COVID-19 vaccine it has developed with Pfizer in temperature-controlled boxes to Britain by ferry or plane, a senior executive said on Wednesday, as it prepares to deliver the shots in the next few days.

Chief business and chief commercial officer of the German biotech Sean Marett made the comments in a briefing after Britain approved the vaccine, jumping ahead of the United States and Europe to become the first Western country to formally endorse a jab.

Marett said the vaccine, which should reach the most vulnerable people early next week, can be transported after leaving storage for up to six hours at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, and can last for five days in a normal fridge.

His comments will allay some concerns that the shots need to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, equivalent to the Antarctic winter, which may be difficult for nursing homes and other locations where the shots will be administered first.

The companies are continuing to assess the stability of the vaccine during transportation, and expect more data on storage of the shots at minus 20 degrees Celsius and in normal fridge temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees, he said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout in London, John Miller in Zurich, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Matthias Blamont in Paris; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey