The first people in the UK are expected to get a coronavirus jab from what has been called “V-Day”, as the mass vaccination program begins.
About 70 hospital facilities across the UK are preparing to offer the Pfizer / BioNTech jab to those over 80 as well as some health workers and caregivers.
The First Receivers
The program aims to protect the most vulnerable and restore health to normalcy.
The grandfather of the nine, Dr Hari Shukla, 87, said he was “delighted to do the little I got” by getting a jab on Tuesday.
“I see it as my duty to do so and to do whatever I can to help,” said Dr Shukla, who will be receiving a jab at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle with his wife, Ranjan.
The UK will be the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week.
Margaret Keenan – First Person To Receive COVID Vaccine Shot
A UK grandmother has become the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.
Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was the “best early birthday present”.
She was given the injection at 06:31 GMT – the first of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that will be dispensed in the coming weeks.
Up to four million more are expected by the end of the month.
Sister Joanna Sloan, who will head up the vaccine rollout in Belfast, received the first vaccine administered in Northern Ireland, just after 08:00 GMT at the Royal Victoria Hospital
Vaccination Not Mandatory
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was now “light at the end of the tunnel”.
“We will look back today, V-day, as an important moment in the fight against this deadly disease,” he added.
Those carrying this vaccine will be the first to receive jabs in Scotland, while health workers will be the first in line in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today marks a major step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus.”
But he added: “As the program grows in the coming weeks and months, it is as important as ever to keep to the Covid Winter Plan – to follow the rules in your area and to remember the basics of hands, face and location.”
Ministers have warned that it may be Easter by the time the border restriction is cleared in a significant way.
A Turning Point
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said vaccinations are “a turning point and decision in the fight against coronavirus” and will continue “at least until spring”, urging people to “be very careful” before then.
More than 60,000 people in the UK have died after being infected with Covid-19, according to government statistics.
The government has defended 800,000 doses of this vaccine, but a total of 40 million orders have been placed, enough for 20 million people as two studies are needed.
Most of that is not expected to be available until next year, although government sources say another four million volumes should arrive in the country by the end of the year.
The government was originally promised 10 million doses by the end of December, but problems with production mean that supply will fall short of what was originally expected.
Refrigerated containers containing vaccine doses have been arriving in the UK a few days ago from Belgium, where they were made, and sent to a network of hospitals that will carry out the vaccine.
Chris Hopson of NHS providers, representing hospitals, said there had been a “surprising effort” to start a vaccination program as soon as possible as the vaccine was only approved for use in the UK last week.
“This is our good NHS at work,” he added.
Hospital patients over the age of 80 are among the first people to receive a jab on Tuesday, as well as NHS staff conducting the vaccination.
Some of the most vulnerable NHS workers will also be offered a vaccine and, in the coming days, care homes will be able to book their employees for immunizations.
However the removal of the jab has been complicated by the need to store it at 70C and that it comes in 975 price packs, which cannot yet be divided into smaller batches.
That means it would not have been possible to provide care for rural residents in the early stages of evacuation, even though government vaccine advisers were prioritizing them.
The NHS is awaiting guidance from the drug regulator, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, to determine what measures are needed to allow these groups to be isolated and sent to individual care homes.
That is expected to happen in mid-December, which will pave the way for the vaccine to be given to home care and distributed to more than 1,000 GP centers.
How Will The Vaccine Be Given?
Mass vaccination centres at conference centres, sports stadiums and leisure centres are also expected to be established next year.
The vaccine is given in two injections, separated for 21 days, and the second dose is a stimulant. The immune system begins to enter after the first dose but reaches its full potential seven days after the second dose.
Most side effects are mild, similar to side effects after any other vaccine, and usually last a day or more.
The vaccine was 95% effective in all trial groups, including adults.
But it is not known how long the flu is transmitted, or it prevents people from transmitting the virus to others.
Clive Dix, vice-chairman of the government’s vaccination team, said: “We may need to be vaccinated every year as we do the flu.”
But he said getting to this point was “a great success” as the development of a vaccine could take ten years, but it could be achieved in ten months.