The first set of the COVID-19 vaccine have begun to arrive in hospitals around the United Kingdom in preparation for use on Tuesday, 8th December 2020, making Britain the first country to vaccinate the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Britain gave emergency use approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week. NHS England had written to community doctors, telling them to get ready to start giving vaccinations from Dec. 14 as groups of local doctors will begin operation on more than 1,000 vaccination centres across the country.
The NHS England’s medical director, Prof Stephen Powis stated that the rapid start of immunisation against Covid-19 did not mean the end of the pandemic was in sight, warning that the move would be the largest and most complex vaccination campaign in the country’s history.
“It will take many months for us to vaccinate everybody who needs vaccination,” said Powis
In addressing the issue of who would get the vaccine first, NHS England has decided to give the first shots to 50 hospital hubs in England and others in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to people aged over 80, some of whom may be care home residents able to travel. People over the age of 80 who already have an outpatient hospital appointment this week will be invited for vaccination while they are there.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “This coming week will be a historic moment as we begin vaccination against Covid-19. We are prioritising the most vulnerable first and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too. I urge everybody to play their part to suppress this virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS while they carry out this crucial work.”
The UK has bought 40m doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, which is enough for 20 million people, but most will arrive next year. The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said 4m doses were expected before the end of the year.
“It is important that people wait to be contacted by the NHS to have their vaccine. There is a rigorous, large-scale exercise already well under way by all the hospital hubs with local partners to identify and contact people who will be first in line. This will help ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible,” she said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at -70C (-94F) and only lasts five days in a regular fridge. For that reason, it will first be administered in 50 hospitals. The logistical hurdles are great. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to be stored in deep-frozen packs containing 975 doses at minus 70C that cannot easily be split down into small batches to be taken to individual care homes, whose residents have been designated the first priority. It can be moved only four times and lasts for just five days at fridge temperature.
The UK recorded 17,272 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, up from 15,539 a day earlier, and 231 deaths were reported, bringing the total to 61,245.