Woman 90, becomes the first to get coronavirus vaccine in the UK
The first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as part of a mass immunisation scheme in the UK is a 90-year-old grandmother who was used to kick off a global programme that is expected to gain momentum.
Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, was given the jab at University Hospital Coventry at 6:31 a.m in what has been dubbed “V-Day” in the UK.
Staff applauded her after she had received the first dose. Keenan said she felt “so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19.”
“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,” she said.
The initial phase of the programme is being rolled out at a network of hospital hubs around the country. The first 800,000 doses are going to people over 80 who are either in hospital or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers.
Public health officials are asking the public to be patient because only those who are most at risk from COVID-19 will be vaccinated in the early stages. Medical staff will contact patients to arrange appointments, and most will have to wait until next year.
“I think there’s every chance that we will look back on … (Tuesday) as marking a decisive turning point in the battle against coronavirus,” said Simon Stevens, the CEO of England’s National Health Service.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a world-renowned immunology expert from Imperial College London, said it’s a momentous morning.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we’ve got from the first discovery of the virus to the first injections of a licensed vaccine within less than a year,” he told Euronews. “I think it’s an amazing tribute to the speed with which science can work, and also the speed with which regulators and politicians, the funders, everyone can work together in order to arrive at this point.”
But the logistical hurdles are huge. The Pfi vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius and easily be separated into small batches.
In care homes there are questions over how to store the vaccine, which can only be moved four times and lasts just five days at fridge temperature.
“We don’t know yet what it looks like in terms of distribution, and next stages, but our hopes are that we can organise ourselves really quickly, get mobilised, and get our residents vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Anna Selby, Head of the COVID-19 task force at Sunrise Senior Living UK.
The UK is getting a head start on the project after British regulators gave emergency authorisation on December 2 to the vaccine produced by US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. The first shipments were delivered to a selected group of UK hospitals on Sunday.
The vaccine can’t arrive soon enough for the UK, which has more than 61,000 COVID-19 related deaths — more than any other country has reported in Europe — and more than 1.7 million cases.
In England, the vaccine will be delivered at 50 hospital hubs in the first wave of the programme, with more hospitals expected to offer it as the rollout ramps up. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are making their own plans under the UK’s system of devolved administration.