The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at minus 70C and can be moved four times before it is injected, meaning initially it can only be administered at hospitals. Care, home staff and residents, who are at the top of a list drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, are being called into hospitals to receive the jab.
Sir Simon, chief executive of NHS England, called the virus “the greatest health challenge in NHS history”. A further 1,438 Covid-19 patients were admitted yesterday, bringing the total in the hospital to 14,556.
“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic,” he said. “NHS vaccination programmes which have helped to 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 jab.”
Sir Simon said he was confident that vaccinations could begin to be offered in care homes in England “well before Christmas”, adding that there was “every prospect” that by spring all high-risk vulnerable groups will have been vaccinated.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government chief scientific adviser, said today was a “watershed moment” in the coronavirus fight. “It is testament to the efforts of all the scientists, researchers, manufacturers and the thousands of volunteers who took part in clinical trials who made this moment possible.
“I think by the summer we should be in a much better place to get on planes. I don’t think we’re going to get away from this virus ever — so we’re going to have to maintain sensible hygiene and washing hands and so on,” Ms Bingham told BBC Breakfast.
“I would like this vaccine to be as routine as an annual flu jab and that we manage it rather than get bowed down by it.”
Most of the 50 hospital “hubs” that received the first doses have begun to administer them today.
Among those receiving the vaccine will be Hari Shukla, 87, a former teacher, and his wife, Ranjan, 83, who will have the jab at Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne.
“I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine,” Dr Shukla, a race-relations campaigner, said. “Having been in contact with the NHS staff I know how hard they all work and I am grateful for everything they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic.”