The first person in the world to be given the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials is a grandmother in the UK, Margaret Keenan. The second person is a man called William Shakespeare.
They were part of the first 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that will be dispensed in the next few weeks in the UK. Up to four million more are expected by the end of December. Margaret Keenan, who will be celebrating her 91st birthday next week, says that the vaccine was the “best early birthday present”.
“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… My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too,” she added.
William Shakespeare—not to be confused with William Shakespeare the English playwright—is an 81-year-old man from Warwickshire, which surprisingly is also the county where the famous English playwright was born. He got his vaccine shot at University Hospital Coventry, along with Keenan.
“It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it? It’s started changing our lives and our lifestyle,” said Shakespeare.
Throughout the day, patients and health workers at 50 hospitals around the UK have been getting the vaccine. This is as the UK is the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine after regulators approved its use last week.
While it’s a huge milestone for the UK, the NHS faces a huge task in rolling out this vaccine. There are already reports of manufacturing problems—which means the UK is expecting less than half of the 10 million doses of the vaccine it was planning for by the end of the year.
It also needs to be kept in ultra-cold storage and in batches of 975 units, which means that the batches cannot yet be taken into care homes to vaccinate residents—the very highest priority group. It can’t yet be sent out to clinics in the community, either.
Takers of the vaccine should also need two doses to get full immunity. Despite the early protection received by the first dose, it’s unclear how long that protection would last on its own. The second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gives the immune system a major, long-term boost.
This is why the UK is also hoping that their British-made Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would get a green light. Their vaccine can be kept in fridges and so is easier to distribute.
As for Malaysia, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will arrive in the country by 2021 and will be free for Malaysians. The doses will be enough to vaccinate 6.4 million people, with the initial shipment of one million doses for 500,000 frontline health workers.