The world will be watching the UK as they start administering coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday. Experts said that this will be the largest and most complex vaccination campaign in UK’s history.
Around 800,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine arrived in hospitals around the UK on Monday. The vaccine, developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were delivered in super-cold containers.
“To know that they are here, and we are among 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 told AP.
The UK was the first country to approve the usage of coronavirus vaccine, and the first to officially start the immunization. However, this does not mean that the end of the pandemic is now in sight,” said NHS England’s medical director Prof. Stephen Powis.
“It will take many months for us to vaccinate everybody who needs vaccination,” he told SkyNews.
The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccines were stored in deep-frozen packs containing 975 doses at minus 70C that cannot easily be split down into small batches. They will need to be opened and unpacked manually at specially licensed sites before they’re delivered to hospitals.
Across the UK, 50 hospitals have been chosen as hubs to administer the vaccine. The government initially ordered 40 million doses, which will vaccinate 20 million people. The National Health Services said that they will set up more hubs as more doses arrive.
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 appointment 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.
There are plans for vaccination centers treating large numbers of patients in sports areas and conference centers. Local pharmacies may also be allowed to offer the jabs, depending on the supply.
But because of the complexity of storing and moving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, NHS still has to strategize a simpler but safe way to split up the dose packs so the shots can get to other patients this month or early next year.
In total, Britain has procured 357 million doses of seven vaccine candidates. This includes 100 million of the much cheaper Oxford vaccine, which has a lower efficacy rate than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
As of December 7, the UK has recorded 1,723,242 cases and more than 61,000 deaths.
The rest of the world will be closely watching the UK as it launches the vaccination program, with hopes that other countries with the highest number of coronavirus cases will soon do the same.
UK’s vaccination success will give people confidence in the vaccines, which have been widely scrutinized and doubted.
Last week, popular actress Letitia Wright came under fire after reposting an anti-vaccine video on her Twitter account. The Black Panther actress already deleted her social media accounts following the controversy.
Wright argued that she was just airing out her questions about the vaccines which “we are putting in our bodies.”
Many health organizations have warned about the spread of fake news or misinformed posts surrounding the coronavirus vaccines.
A survey in Britain last month showed that almost two-thirds of people would get vaccinated for the disease. But many have expressed unease at its efficacy and possible side effects.
But Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZenece, Moderna and other leading pharmaceuticals producing coronavirus vaccines all said that there are little to no side effects.