LONDON, UK: A 90-year-old woman from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outside trial conditions. This marks the start of the UK’s mass vaccination programme.
Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was the “best early birthday present”.
Hubs in the UK will vaccinate over-80s and some health and care staff.
The programme aims to protect the most vulnerable and return life to normal.
Matron May Parsons administered Ms Keenan’s vaccine at at 06:30 GMT at University Hospital, Coventry.
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.”
The UK is the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week.
The rollout comes at a crucial time for the country; the UK has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, after France and Italy, with over 1.7 million confirmed infections, and more than 61,000 deaths, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
Fifty hospitals have been chosen to act as vaccine “hubs” in the UK and these will act as the primary place where the inoculations are administered. Later, the vaccine will be rolled out to community health centres, such as doctors’ surgeries, in order to facilitate a more general vaccination program, where the priority will depend on age and clinical need.
Related story: Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine approved for use next week in UK
Croydon University Hospital in London was one of the first hospitals to receive batches of the vaccine this weekend.
“It’s just incredible actually,” Croydon Health Services’ Chief Pharmacist Louise Coughlin told reporters.
“Obviously I can’t hold them in my hands because they are minus 70 degrees, but to know that they are here and we are amongst the first in the country to actually receive the vaccine and therefore the first in the world is just amazing. I am so proud.”
As it’s a two-dose vaccine, the country has bought enough doses to vaccinate 20 million people. Pfizer’s delivery of the vaccines will be staggered, with the total amount expected to have been delivered by the end of 2021.
Britain has also preordered other Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Moderna, but these are yet to be granted approval.