First COVID-19 vaccinations begin in UK hospitals

A 90-year-old woman has become the first person given a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the UK’s mass vaccination programme.

Margaret Keenan was given the injection at 06:31 this morning at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

Keenan turns 91 next week and the BBC said she described receiving the shot as “the best early birthday present”.

It was the first of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that will be given in the coming weeks, and up to four million more are expected by the end of the month.

The logistical challenges of storing and distributing the vaccine, which must be kept at around -70C to retain its integrity, mean that distribution will occur at around 50 hubs nationally.

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.

“My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too!”

NHS nurse May Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to the patient.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens added: “Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved COVID-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement.

“Today is just the first step in the largest vaccination programme this country has ever seen. It will take some months to complete the work as more vaccine supplies become available and until then we must not drop our guard.

“But if we all stay vigilant in the weeks and months ahead, we will be able to look back at this as a decisive turning point in the battle against the virus.”

The vaccine has also been given to the first person in Wales, where 48 year-old Craig Atkins from Ebbw Vale became the first to receive the shot.

Wales has been hit badly by the virus and unlike England the numbers of cases are continuing to rise, prompting the country’s devolved government to consider a third national lockdown as hospital cases rose to a record high.

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