The UK’s National Health Service delivered its first footage of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday. He opened a mass vaccination campaign with little precedent in modern medicine, making the British the first in the world to receive a clinically approved, fully tested vaccine for the disease.
Vaccine centers across the country are starting to carefully deliver vaccinations on a tight schedule, as the vaccine must be used or thrown away within five days of being thawed. “We do this with military precision, and indeed the military helped us with our planning,” said Fiona Kinghorn, who oversaw the launch of the vaccine at a site in Cardiff, Wales.
The effort marks a turning point in the remarkable race to manufacture a vaccine and global effort to end a pandemic that killed 1.5 million people worldwide. At a Welsh vaccination center, a retired nurse on the facility described the reaction of her youngest patient, another nurse. “She just cried and said it was such an emotional day,” she said, adding, “I think partly because she worked on a Covid ward so she saw the consequences and probably the results. Me assume she saw a lot. “
At 6:31 am Tuesday, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, a former jeweler, rolled up the sleeve of her Merry Christmas T-shirt for the first shot, and her image quickly became a symbol of hope and resilience .
“I feel so privileged to be the first person to be vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Ms. Keenan, who lives in Coventry, Central England. “That means I can finally look forward to spending time with family and friends in the New Year after being alone for most of the year.”
UK regulators jumped ahead of their American counterparts last week to approve a coronavirus vaccine, which angered the White House and sparked a lively debate over whether the UK had moved too quickly or whether the United States was wasting valuable time when the virus was around 2,200 People killed Americans one day in the past week, as of Monday.
President Trump planned on Tuesday to issue an executive order proclaiming that other nations will not receive US vaccines until after Americans are vaccinated. This guideline seemed to have no real teeth, but it was indicative of the heated race to secure dose deliveries.
For the people who were vaccinated in the UK, including doctors and nurses who joined the country’s National Health Service this year, the footage was an early glimpse into life after the pandemic. Except for Ms. Keenan, none got as much attention as William Shakespeare, who was second in a shot in Coventry and whose real name, the National Health Service confirmed, is William Shakespeare. Twitter used the news of his vaccination as an opportunity for an enthusiastic play on words and jokes about the taming of the flu and the gentlemen of Corona.
“Today is a great day for medicine and the future,” said Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, on Tuesday. (A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that he was the chief medical officer for the whole of the UK.)
The first 800,000 doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for the UK have been shipped from a manufacturing facility in Belgium to government warehouses in the UK and then to hospitals in the past few days.
50 hospitals will manage the admissions until the government can refine a plan for delivery to nursing homes and doctor’s offices. The vaccine must be transported in temperatures similar to the south pole before it can be stored in a regular refrigerator for five days, Pfizer said. Doctors and nurses, certain people aged 80 and over, and nursing home workers are given the vaccine first.
Some doctors and nurses have received invitations to register for appointments in the past few days. The first shots are for those who are at the highest risk of serious illness. The government has indicated that people aged 80 and over who have already had a doctor’s visit or are discharged from certain hospitals for this week will also be among the first to receive gunfire.
Nursing home residents, who should actually be the government’s top priority, will be vaccinated in the coming weeks once health officials start distributing doses across hospitals.
Hundreds of people are still dying from the virus every day in the UK, and the country has taken into account Christmas travel that scientists fear will trigger another surge in infections.
“It’s amazing to see the vaccine, but we can’t afford to relax right now,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday morning when visiting a London hospital. Trying to calm a recipient’s nerves over needles, he suggested, “I always try to think of something else – recite poetry.”
Ms. Keenan, the first vaccine recipient, showed no such nerves. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said on Twitter that she had “a little lump in her throat” when Ms. Keenan was shot.
“Feels like a milestone after a tough year for everyone,” added Ms. Sturgeon.
Ms. Keenan’s shot was administered by May Parsons, a nurse originally from the Philippines who has worked for the National Health Service for 24 years.
“The past few months have been difficult for all of us who work in the NHS,” she said, “but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”