First patients receive vaccine as nationwide rollout begins

The phased NHS rollout of the two-dose vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech began at 6.31am on Tuesday, when Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Coventry, became the first person in the world to receive the jab outside of a clinical trial.

Britain has taken its first tentative but crucial steps forward in the delivery of a Covid-19 vaccination programme, as the government expressed its hope of inoculating millions of people by the end of the year.

Across the four nations of the UK, hundreds of people were vaccinated on so-called V-Day, with a total of 800,000 doses now set to be administered from 70 different hospital hubs in the days to come.

On the same day that new trial data confirmed the Oxford jab to be safe, health secretary Matt Hancock said he was hopeful that “several million” people will have received a vaccine by the end of the Christmas period.

Up to five million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are expected to be distributed and administered across the UK before the new year, while the government is confident that approval for the Oxford vaccine could be granted in the next few weeks, unlocking even more supplies.

During his visit to the vaccination clinic at Guy’s Hospital in London on Tuesday morning, prime minister Boris Johnson urged people to accept a jab if offered one by the NHS. “To all those who are scared – don’t be,” he said. “There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

Ms Keenan – who turns 91 next week and has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren – received her vaccine from May Parsons, a nurse at University Hospital in Coventry.

Known to family and friends as Maggie, Ms Keenan said: “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.

“I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.”

Among the first to receive the jab will be patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay.

Care home providers are also being asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to begin booking staff in to vaccination clinics, while GPs are expected to start vaccinating residents as soon as possible.

Doses have already been arriving at vaccine sites in preparation for the rollout, but it is not known when all 50 hubs in England will receive their supplies, with deliveries expected to take place at different times throughout the week.

Mr Hancock said he expected millions of people in the country to receive the vaccine before the new year.

“As of this morning Tuesday, right now several dozen people have been vaccinated and by Christmas several million people will have been vaccinated,” he told the BBC. “But we’ve got to protect those who are vulnerable.”

NHS England’s medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said Tuesday’s vaccinations marked a “turning point” in the pandemic. “This is the way out of it, the beginning of the end.”

“It’s not going to happen tomorrow, it’s not going to happen next week or next month,” he added. “We still need to socially distance, we need to follow all those restrictions in place.

“But, in 2021, vaccination programmes will mean we can get back to normality.”

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, offered a “heartfelt thank you” to all those involved in the vaccine’s development, from scientists and volunteers in clinical trials to NHS staff.

“Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved Covid-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement,” he said.

The second person vaccinated in the UK was 81-year-old William Shakespeare, from Warwickshire. He said he was “pleased” to be given the jab. “I need to say, the staff at this hospital are wonderful,” he added.

Protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of two doses, meaning Mr Shakespeare and others won’t be safe from Covid-19 until the turn of the new year.

Those who are vaccinated will receive some level of protection around 12 days after the first jab but the best protection comes a week after the second dose.

The UK has ordered a total of 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – enough to vaccinate 20 million Britons.

Separately, 100 million doses of the Oxford jab have been secured, along with 7 million shots of the Moderna vaccine.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is currently conducting a rolling review of the trial data for the two vaccines, with the government hopeful that approval for both could be granted before 2021.

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