With an eye on history, some are already calling it “V Day.”
On Tuesday, Britain became the first country in the world to begin a massive vaccination campaign to inoculate its population against COVID-19. Two weeks ago, Britain’s was the first Western government to approve the brand-new coronavirus vaccine that resulted from the partnership of American drug-maker Pfizer and German pharma company BioNTech. Now, 800,000 doses of the vaccine have shipped from a Belgian manufacturing plant to the UK. Senior citizens, healthcare workers, and nursing home employees will be the first group of citizens to receive their shots.
90-year-old Margaret Keenan of Coventry, England received the very first shot of the new vaccine on Tuesday. In a photograph that has already become symbolic of the historic vaccination campaign, the English granny wears a “Merry Christmas” t-shirt and a gray cardigan as she receives an injection from May Parsons, a Filipina-British nurse who has worked for the National Health Service for over 24 years.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Ms. Keenan. “It means I can 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 in line for a shot in Coventry was one William Shakespeare—yes, his real name. Both Keenan and Shakespeare received their shots at one of only fifty hospitals presently authorized to administer the drug. That’s because the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be held at extremely cold temperatures, in freezers currently only available at those hospitals.
Unfortunately, that makes it challenging to get the vaccines to nursing homes. In the coming weeks, the government will roll out a plan for getting the vaccine to those who cannot risk a trip to a hospital.
Milestone Moment, But Don’t Relax Just Yet
Though the V-Day has arrived, it will still be months until all of Britain has access to a vaccine. As such, leaders are warning people not to get too hyped and to continue minding safety guidelines during the Christmas season.
“It is amazing to see the vaccine,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to a London hospital. “But we can’t afford to relax now.” Soon after, he attempted to calm a vaccine patient’s fear of needles as he awaited his shot. “I always try to think of something else,” said Johnson, who narrowly survived his own bout of COVID-19 after days in hospital this April. “Recite some poetry,” he suggested.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, tweeted that watching Ms. Keenan receive her shot gave her “a bit of a lump in the throat…Feels like such a milestone moment after a tough year for everyone.”
As for May Parsons, the nurse who administered the very first shot, she said the moment was cause for optimism. “The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS,” she said. “But now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”