The United Kingdom on Monday became the first country in the world to roll out the coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, reported CNN.
An 82-year-old retired maintenance manager in the United Kingdom was the first person outside clinical trials to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, reported The Guardian. Brian Pinker, who got the shot at Oxford’s Churchill hospital, said that the vaccine meant “everything” to him. “To my mind, it’s the only way of getting back to normal life,” he said.
Pinker, who has been receiving dialysis for kidney disease at the hospital, said he was “really proud” the vaccine was developed in Oxford, according to BBC. “The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant and I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year,” he said.
Chief nurse Foster, who gave the first dose, told the news channel that administering the vaccine was a “huge privilege”. “Every single patient that we have vaccinated over the last couple of weeks have got their own personal stories to the difference it’s going to make, so it is no different this morning,” she told BBC.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is easier to transport and store as compared to the one developed by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology firm BioNTech. The vaccine by the latter needs to stored at -70 degrees Celsius, while the one from the former can be kept at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to deliver it outside a hospital environment.
The UK government lauded the vaccination drive. “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
The health secretary admitted that only 5.3 lakh doses were available for use in the week but asserted that the distribution programme was being accelerated. “It’s a matter of getting the vaccine as soon as it’s manufactured, and then goes through the crucial safety checks, which obviously are very important and getting it into the NHS [National Health Service] and delivered into people’s arms,” he told BBC. “It’s going to be a tough few weeks ahead, but this is the way out.”
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, welcomed the vaccination drive but cautioned people not to get carried away. “The first AZ/Oxford vaccines were given today,” he tweeted. This is very welcome; congratulations to all involved. Vaccines give us a route out in the medium term. The NHS is however under very considerable and rising pressure in the short term. We must all follow social distancing for now.”
Following a rise in coronavirus cases, the UK has accelerated its vaccination rollout by planning to give both doses of the vaccine 12 weeks apart. Earlier, the government had planned to have 21 days between the shots.
The UK had on Sunday reported more than 50,000 Covid-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day. The tally in the country stood at 26,62,699 and the toll was 75,137, according to the John Hopkins University data.