The UK became the first country to start administering the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday, kicking off its mass vaccination program, which is expected to see 4 million people begin the vaccination process by the end of the month. The first person to receive the vaccine outside of a clinical trial was Margaret Keenan, 90, who was given the first of the two injections she will need at University Hospital, Coventry ahead of her birthday next week.
“I feel 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,” said Keenan in a statement.
She will receive her second dose of the vaccine in three weeks time, with full immunity expected a further week after that.
Around 70 hospital hubs across the UK are being used to administer the vaccines, with patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay being among the first to receive the injections.
Next on the priority list are residents of care homes and their carers, followed by people over 80 and frontline health and care staff. The hope is to avoid overwhelming the country’s National Health Service in the middle of winter, its busiest time of year.
The UK became thefor use last week, after it underwent rigorous clinical trials. Pfizer said the vaccine had been 95% effective in the trials.
The vaccine is one of several in development as the world’s scientists race to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Developed by German biotech firm BioNTech and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, it’s also the first vaccine to use cutting-edge mRNA genetic material to fight the illness. The results of clinical trials for two other vaccines, one by Moderna and one by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca have also been announced.
The FDA in the US is currently examining vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna, although the supply chain is already being readied in preparation for rolling out the Pfizer vaccine. The first mass air shipment of vaccines was delivered to Chicago at the end of November.