The fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) takes a historic leap forward today after the UK begins nationwide rollout of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
Two hospitals in Greater Manchester – Salford Royal Hospital and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust (Stepping Hill Hospital – are among seven hubs in the North West, and dozens throughout the country, to begin administering the vaccine this week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has dubbed today’s historic rollout as “V-Day”.
People aged 80 and older, care home workers, and NHS workers who are at higher risk, are among those at the front of the queue to receive the jab after the UK last week became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use outside of clinical trial.
Pfizer and BioNTech reported final trial results showing its vaccine was 95% effective in preventing coronavirus (COVID-19) with no major safety concerns, and studies showed the jab to work in all age groups.
The UK government is confirmed to have ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine – needing to be refrigerated at -70C (-94F) – which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, as two doses are required, and there are 800,000 doses in the first batch, meaning 400,000 people will be vaccinated initially.
Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person in the world to receive the jab as part of a vaccination programme this morning by nurse May Parsons at the Coventry University Hospital at 6.31am.
She said being the first was “a privilege” and “the best early birthday present I could wish for” as it would mean she could spend time with her family and friends in the New Year “after being on my own for most of the year”.
She thanked Ms Parsons and the NHS staff for looking after her “tremendously”.
“My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too”.
Nurse May Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient.
She added: “The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Speaking on the nationwide rollout, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK marks a momentous step in our fight against COVID-19, but we still have some way to go and everyone needs to keep following the rules to keep the virus under control.”
Professor Stephen Powis – National Medical Director at the NHS – added on Sunday that the start of vaccinations “feels like the beginning of the end”, but warned the campaign will be a “marathon, not a sprint”.
For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at gov.uk/coronavirus.