Britain on Wednesday became the first nation to approve a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE, saying it will be delivered next week throughout the country.

"The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use," the British government said in a statement, referring to the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a separate statement that his government will start the "biggest" vaccination in the country's history control the spread of the disease.

The National Health Service "has been preparing for the biggest program of mass vaccination in the history of the UK. And that is going to begin next week," Johnson said.

According to the statement, the first phase of vaccination will include care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Johnson added that it will take some months before all of those considered the most vulnerable are protected by vaccination.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier in the day that deliveries of the vaccine will commence across the country early next week, promising "Help is on its way" in a Twitter post.

"It's the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again," Johnson tweeted.

Pfizer and BioNTech recently applied for approval of the vaccine in the European Union and the United States, and are expected to also apply for approval from the Japanese government, which has agreed in principle to receive vaccine doses for 60 million people from the companies.

Related coverage:

Japan enacts law to make coronavirus vaccines free to residents

North Korea's leader Kim reportedly receives vaccine, China rejects news

Moderna filing for emergency use of coronavirus vaccine in U.S.