UK: Mass vaccination campaign launched, 90-year-old first in line

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The United Kingdom has become the first nation in the world to roll out an independently-tested mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Tuesday, with the first dose administered to a nonagenarian grandmother.

Margaret Keenan, a former jewelry shop employee who turns 91 next week, received her shot at University Hospital Coventry.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” Keenan told AP.

“It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because 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.”

The UK vaccination campaign was rolled out after British regulators granted emergency permission to the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech on December 2. Fifty hospitals around the country will offer the vaccine.

In a statement at Guy’s Hospital in London on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took weeks to recover from his own bout with COVID-19, said the public should not fear the vaccine.

“To all those who are scared [of getting vaccinated] – don’t be,” he said. “There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

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“It’s safe, it’s the right thing to do, it’s good for you and it’s good for the whole country. [But] it’s going to take awhile. I urge people to contain their impatience.”

The first 800,000 doses of the vaccine are reserved for people over 80 and nursing home employees. The UK has previously said it aims to vaccinate about 40 percent of its population – some 25 million people.

The medical director of England’s National Health Insurance, Stephen Powis, told AP that the vaccination campaign was “a sprint, not a marathon.”

“This really feels like the beginning of the end,” he said.

“It’s been a really dreadful year, 2020 — all those things that we are so used to, meeting friends and family, going to the cinema, have been disrupted. We can get those back. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month. But in the months to come.”

Last Saturday, Russia began widely distributing its COVID-19 vaccine, named Sputnik V, administering the vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and social workers at various locations throughout Moscow.

Sputnik V has come under scrutiny because the vaccination was not tested in wide scale clinical trials, and not independently reviewed for efficacy.

Fifty-nine percent of Russians polled in a recent study said they did not trust the vaccine and were not interested in receiving it.