The United Kingdom began inoculating its citizens with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 on Monday, giving the shot to Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient, at a hospital a few hundred metres away from where the vaccine was developed.
Pinker, a retired maintenance manager, paid tribute to the scientists who had developed the shot, saying he was looking forward to celebrating his wedding anniversary.
“I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford,” he said in a statement released by the health service.
“The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant and I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year.”
Andrew Pollard, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator into the trial of the shot, also received the vaccine, the National Health Service (NHS) said.
The vaccine shots will be delivered at a small number of hospitals in the UK for the first few days so authorities can watch out for any adverse reactions, before supplies are sent to hundreds of doctors’ offices later in the week.
Since December 8, the NHS has been giving out shots from a vaccine made by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech to healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and easier to use, since it does not require the super-cold storage needed by the Pfizer vaccine.
Officials say the UK has about 530,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hand and is moving towards a goal of vaccinating two million people a week as soon as possible.
In a shift from practices in the US and elsewhere, the UK plans to give people second doses of both vaccines within 12 weeks of the first shot rather than within 21 days, to accelerate immunisations across populations as quickly as possible.