Shipments of the coronavirus vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were delivered Sunday in the U.K. in super-cold containers, two days before it goes public in an immunization program that is being closely watched around the world.
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“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,” said Louise Coughlan, joint chief pharmacist at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, just south of London.
“I’m so proud,” she said after the trust, which runs Croydon University Hospital, took delivery of the vaccine.
Vaccinations will be administered starting Tuesday at around 50 hospital hubs in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also begin their vaccination rollouts the same day.
Governments and health agencies around the world will be monitoring the British vaccination program, which will take months, to note its successes and failures and adjust their own plans accordingly. The U.S. hopes to start vaccinations later this month. British regulatory authorities are also examining data on the vaccines from American biotechnology company Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford University.
Russia on Saturday began vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and others at dozens of centers in Moscow with its Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which was approved over the summer after being tested in only a few dozen people.
The excitement in Britain, which has Europe’s highest virus-related death toll at more than 61,000, was palpable.
“Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director.
Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospitals as outpatients and those being discharged after a stay in the hospital will be among the first to receive the jab. Hospitals will also start inviting over 80s in for a vaccine shot and will work with nursing homes to book staff into vaccination clinics. Any appointments not taken up will be offered to those health workers deemed to be at the highest risk of COVID-19. Everyone who is vaccinated will need a booster jab 21 days later.
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