LONDON (Bloomberg): The U.K.’s National Health Service launched what it has called the biggest immunization campaign in its history, starting Covid vaccinations across the country.
People over 80 are at the front of the line for shots from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on Tuesday, with tens of thousands expected to get vaccinated in the coming days. The U.K. is the first western nation to begin its program, having approved the jab last week.
Meet Maggie: the first person in the world to receive a fully-tested and approved Covid-19 vaccine on the NHS. pic.twitter.com/eb2ijTMSLW— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) December 8, 2020
- NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) December 8,2020 Margaret keenan was the first person to get the vaccine at about 6:30 a.m., according to a statement. Receiving a shot at a hospital in Coventry was "the best early birthday present I could wish for, ” said keenan, who’s due to turn 91 next week, because it meant she’d be able to spend time with her family and friends in the new year after being on her own for most of 2020.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed a "huge step forward” in the fight against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 1.7 million people and killed more than 61,000 people in Britain. The U.K.’s speedy clearance of the vaccine has drawn criticism from experts in the U.S. and Europe, though domestic regulators say they’ve put safety first.
The stakes are high for Johnson’s government after missteps earlier in its handling of the pandemic, with the U.K. recording Europe’s highest death toll from the virus and reeling from the economic fallout of repeated lockdowns. Now it faces the logistical challenge of rolling out the vaccine to a country of 67 million people, amid concern that end-of-year holidays could spur a new wave of infections.
"Mass vaccination will take time, and we must remain clear-eyed about the challenges that remain, ” Johnson said in a statement.
As the program ramps up in the weeks ahead, Britons should continue to follow the social distancing rules in their area, the prime minister said. Some 99% of England’s population are currently in the top two tiers of restrictions -- with many regions forced to close pubs and restaurants -- as the government attempts to curb the spread of the virus.
Fifty hospitals are initially taking part in the vaccination campaign and have started booking over-80s for shots and working with care-home providers to book their employees into vaccination clinics. Around 800,000 doses are expected to be available in the first week, with as many as 4 million available by the end of the year, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospitals.
Any appointments not used for these groups will be available for health-care workers at highest risk of serious illness from Covid-19, NHS England said. All those vaccinated will need a second shot 21 days after the initial jab.
A number of community-based family doctors will start vaccinations next week, before mass vaccination centers -- based in sporting venues and conference centers -- are brought online when further supplies of the vaccine become available. - Bloomberg