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‘Watershed moment’ as first Covid vaccine given in UK

Chief scientist Patrick Vallance hails first non-trial vaccination as a step towards resuming normality

The UK’s most senior scientist has welcomed the first person in the UK receiving an approved Covid-19 jab as the start of a mass programme of vaccination that may eventually lead the nation “back to normality”.

A 90-year-old woman, Margaret Keenan, received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 on 8 December. She was given the first of 800,000 doses delivered to the UK after the jab was approved by regulators.

“Today is a watershed moment in the fight against Covid-19 as the first vaccinations are administered,” said the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.

“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.”

Vallance described the efforts as “the first steps on the path to getting back to normality”.

“While we are the first to start our vaccination programme here in the UK, tackling this pandemic is a truly global scientific endeavour,” he noted.

Public participation

The news comes as the government said that over half a million people have been taking part in Covid-19 research over the past eight months.

The chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, said: “Science is the only way out of this pandemic…This science cannot happen without those who volunteer to take part in research.”

William van’t Hoff, chief executive of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network, added that it was vital that people continue to take part.

“We need more effective treatments, vaccines and better diagnostic tests to help not only people affected by this but, critically, to also help the NHS manage this devastating infection,” van’t Hoff said. “For that, we still need many thousands more participants to continue to volunteer for these vital studies.”