Last week, the U.K. was the first nation whose health apparatus granted emergency authorization of a Western-made COVID-19 vaccine. It didn’t take long for the public to reap the benefits of that decision. On Tuesday, Britons started receiving the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which requires two shots delivered weeks apart.
First up at a hospital in Coventry was 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, who said she felt “privileged” to be the inaugural recipient, and that she could “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.”
Second up was an 81-year-old fellow named William Shakespeare (yes, this is England we’re talking about).
Another man, 91-year-old Martin Kenyon of London, told CNN he simply dialed up his local hospital, came in and after a “nasty lunch,” received his shot. “There is no point in dying now when I have lived this long, is there? I don’t plan to anyway.”
The country, which has generally not fared well in its fight against COVID — it has among the highest death rates in the world from the virus — is gearing up for a mass vaccination effort, which will involve converting public spaces, like stadiums, into vaccination sites, all led by the state-run National Health Service. For now, only hospitals will deliver the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at ultracold temperatures. Initial recipients will be the elderly, frontline health-care workers, and nursing-home workers. The country only has 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on hand, with millions more expected in the coming weeks or months.
There was also big vaccine news across the pond. The FDA, which has been under pressure from President Trump to expedite its approval process, said it had found the Pfizer vaccine safe and effective — and announced it offered significant protections after only one shot. The agency is expected to grant emergency authorization over the coming days; however, thanks to the Trump administration’s decision not to buy up huge stockpiles — seemingly preferring to spread its bets on a multitude of vaccines — its availability to the general populace remains to be seen.