Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, became the first person to receive a Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday. She received the shot at University Hospital Coventry at 6.31am.
UK health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed Covid-19 vaccine, starting a global immunisation programme that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval
The first shot came on Tuesday at one of a network of hospital hubs around the country where the initial phase of the UK programme will be rolled out on what has been dubbed “V-Day.”
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said the former jewellery shop assistant, who wore a surgical mask and a blue Merry Christmas T-shirt decorated with a cartoon penguin wearing a Santa hat and red scarf. “It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”
The first 800,000 doses are going to people over 80 who are either hospitalised or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers. Others will have to wait their turn.
Public health officials have asked the public to be patient because only those who are most at risk from the virus will be vaccinated in the early stages. Medical staff will contact people to arrange appointments, and most will have to wait until next year before there is enough vaccine to expand the program.
Stephen Powis, the national medical director of England’s National Health Service, said the first shot outside of a trial was an emotional moment.
“This really feels like the beginning of the end,” Powis said. “It’s been really dreadful year, 2020 – all those things that we are so used to, meeting friends and family, going to the cinema, have been disrupted. We can get those back. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month. But in the months to come.”
Buckingham Palace refused to comment on reports that Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, would be vaccinated as a public example of the shot’s safety.
Public health officials elsewhere are watching Britain’s rollout as they prepare for the unprecedented task of vaccinating billions of people to end a pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million. While the UK has a well-developed infrastructure for delivering vaccines, it is geared to administer them to groups such as school children or pregnant women, not the whole population.
The UK is getting a head start on the project after British regulators on December 2 gave emergency authorisation to the vaccine produced by US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. The US and European Union authorities are also reviewing the vaccine, alongside rival products developed by US biotechnology company Moderna, and a collaboration between Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were delivered to a selected group of UK hospitals on Sunday.