People in the UK are set to receive a coronavirus jab on what has been dubbed “V-Day”, as a mass vaccination programme begins.
About 70 hospital hubs across the UK are gearing up to give the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the over-80s and to some health care staff.
The UK will be the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week.
The programme aims to protect the most vulnerable. Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for just under a third of the population as two shots of the shot are needed per person to gain immunity.
The vaccination will not be compulsory.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told media that there was now “light at the end of the tunnel”. “We will look back on today, V-day, as a key moment in our fightback against this terrible disease,” he added.
Those administering the vaccine will be the first to receive jabs in Scotland, while health workers will be first in line in Wales and Northern Ireland.
An 87-year-old Indian man from the north east of England will become one of the first people in the world to get a vaccine against COVID-19 when he receives his Pfizer/BioNTech jab at a hospital in Newcastle on Tuesday.
Hari Shukla from Tyne and Wear said he feels it is his duty to receive his first of the two-dose vaccine.
“I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help,” said Shukla.
The vaccine needs to be shipped and stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94F) or below. The two companies have developed specially designed, temperature-controlled shippers which can maintain their temperature for 10 days unopened. The shippers can also be used for storage, maintaining the required temperature, for a further 30 days. Once thawed, the vaccine vial can be stored for up to five days at refrigerated temperatures (2-8 degrees Celsius).
The UK market will be supplied by Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Puurs, Belgium, one of its largest sterile injectable sites.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus.”
“As the programme ramps up in the weeks and months ahead, it is as important as ever to keep to the Covid Winter Plan – following the rules in your area and remember the basics of hands, face and space.”
Ministers have warned it could be Easter by the time restrictions are lifted in a significant way.
More than 60,000 people in the UK have died after being infected with Covid-19, according to government figures. Globally 67.59 million people have been infected and 1.54 million have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, India is accelerating its review of coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca to authorise them for emergency use.
Pfizer had applied for emergency-use approval for its coronavirus vaccine in India over the weekend. The government is also pinning hopes for mass supply on the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, which lodged the first formal application for emergency-use approval of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine shot, yesterday.
Serum Institue, too, has applied for the emergency approval of the vaccine. On Monday, Bharat Biotech filed an application on Monday seeking emergency-use authorisation for its coronavirus vaccine.
(With inputs from Reuters and PTI; picture courtesy: AP)