Britain on Tuesday started a mass vaccination program, a move that could help pave the way to normalization after almost a year of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old woman, was the first person to receive the jab at the University Hospital in Coventry.
“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,” Keenan, who will turn 91 next week, said.
Health authorities rolled out the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine after receiving approval from local regulators. The UK became the first country to grant the vaccine emergency use authorization.
The first batch of the jab arrived over the weekend, and up to four million people are expected to be vaccinated by the end of the month.
The first people receiving the vaccine are residents of care homes, those over age 90 and health workers.
Speaking to BBC News, Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the development significant, saying there is a “long march ahead of us but this marks the way out.”
Hancock added that he was “thrilled and delighted” to see Margaret get her jab but was also “really determined that as a country we’ve got to stick together.”
“This virus is deadly. We’ve got to stick by the rules.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked the country’s health service, and “all of the scientists who worked so hard to develop this vaccine,” the volunteers and “everyone who has been following the rules to protect others.”
The UK has secured 40 million doses of Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine after clinical trials showed it provided 90% protection against the novel virus.
More than 60,000 people have died of coronavirus in the country since the start of the outbreak, making the UK the nation with most fatalities across Europe.
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