British health authorities began to supply the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday that passed exhaustive controls and independent reviews, kicking off a global immunization campaign that is expected to gain momentum as more drugs are approved.
The first vaccine was given first thing in the morning in one of the hospital centers that will handle the initial phase of the British program. The first person to be vaccinated was Margaret Keenan, a grandmother who will turn 91 next week. He received the injection at Coventry University Hospital at 6:31 a.m. local time.
Keenan said she felt “very privileged to be the first person to be vaccinated against COVID-19.” “It is the best birthday present I could wish for, because it means that I will finally be able to think about spending time with my family and friends in the next year, after spending most of this year alone,” she said.
The first 800 thousand doses will be for people over 80 who are hospitalized or have medical appointments, as well as nursing home workers. Among the older Britons who were already scheduled to get vaccinated was Hari Shukla of Newcastle.
“When I received the phone call, I was very excited to have the opportunity to join and participate in that,” said the man. “So we are very, very happy and happy, and excited as well.” The Buckingham Palace declined to comment on reports that Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and her husband, Prince Philip, 99 years would be vaccinated as a public example of the safety of the drug.
The public health authorities asked the population to be patient, because in the early stages only those most at risk would be vaccinated. Medical staff will contact patients to arrange appointments, and most will have to wait until next year, until there are enough vaccinations to expand the program.
“I think it is very likely that in the future we will see (this day) as a turning point in the battle against the coronavirus,” said Simon Stevens, director general of the English National Health Service.
Public health authorities around the world watched the British deployment as they prepared for the unprecedented task of vaccinating billions of people to end a pandemic that has killed more than a million and a half people.
Although the UK has a well established infrastructure to distribute vaccines, it is designed for groups such as school children and pregnant women, not for the entire population. The nation has started the task early after British regulators gave “green light” on December 2 for the emergency use of the vaccine produced by US pharmaceuticals Pfizer and German BioNTech.
US and European Union authorities are also looking at the drug, as well as rival products developed by the US biotechnology company Moderna and by a collaborative project between the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
The UK urgently needs vaccines. The country has suffered 61 thousand deaths associated with COVID-19 – the highest figure in Europe – and more than 1.7 million infections. The 800,000 doses from the first round are only part of what is needed.
The UK has agreed to buy millions of doses from seven different manufacturers. Governments around the world have signed agreements with different suppliers to ensure the delivery of products that achieve authorization.