NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens has hailed the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme as a “turning point” in the battle against the virus, as the first approved vaccines were administered in the UK outside of clinical trials.
At University Hospital in Coventry, 90-year-old Margaret became the first person to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The former jewellery shop assistant, who turns 91 next week, was the first of many people from a number of priority groups to receive the vaccine in the coming weeks.
Receiving the jab live on TV, Margaret said: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19. My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too!”
Throughout clinical trials, the vaccines have already been tested on thousands of patients across the country and beyond. Phase 3 trials, which while accelerated due to the widespread nature of the Covid-19 virus are essential to any vaccine receiving approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), saw thousands both in the UK and overseas recruited to test the vaccine to ensure it was safe, effective and of high quality.
Those preliminary results showed a 90% effectiveness for the vaccine, as well as having no reported, connected health implications – with standard practice seeing any unexplained complication or death to any participant in a clinical trial leading to an automatic pause of the trial and a thorough investigation.
And the moment, alongside the whole of the NHS vaccine programme which has been stepped up to deliver this vaccine to the general population, has been praised as hugely significant by Sir Stevens.
He said: ““Hospitals have now cared for more than 190,000 seriously ill COVID-19 patients and have seen beds fill up again in recent weeks.
“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic. NHS vaccination programmes which have successfully helped overcome tuberculosis, polio, and smallpox, now turn their focus to coronavirus.
“NHS staff are proud to be leading the way as the first health service in the world to begin vaccination with this Covid-19 jab.”
People aged 80 and over as well as care home workers will be first to receive the jab this week, along with NHS workers who are at higher risk.
Over the weekend, hospitals have begun inviting over 80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus, as we begin delivering the vaccine to the first patients across the whole country.
“I am immensely proud of the scientists who developed the vaccine, members of the public who took part in trials, and the NHS who have worked tirelessly to prepare for rollout.
“But mass vaccination will take time, and we must remain clear-eyed about the challenges that remain.
“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.”