An 87-year-old ‘local hero’ GP will be among the first in line to get the coronavirus vaccine as Britain today rolls out its new weapon in the war on Covid.
In a world first move that NHS chiefs hope will mark the ‘first step on the road back to normality’, thousands of Britons will today roll up their sleeves and take a shot of the new Pfizer jab.
Dubbed ‘V-Day’, the health service will this morning start the biggest vaccination drive in British history at 50 hospital sites across the country.
Ahead of the roll out, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens last night described the mass vaccination programme as a ‘landmark day for the country and momentous day for the NHS’.
One of the first to take the coronavirus vaccine will be by Hari Shukla – a doctor with a ‘local hero’ plaque in his name and an OBE for his race relations work in his home city of Newcastle.
Dr Shukla and his wife Ranjan, 83, will both be given the Pfizer jab at Newcastle’s Royal Infirmary.
The Ugandan-born retired teacher said: ‘I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine. I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help.
Dr Shukla, 87, (right) and his wife Ranjan, 83, (left) will both be given the Pfizer jab at Newcastle’s Royal Infirmary
Dr Shukla, 87, (right) and his wife Ranjan, 83, (left) will both be given the Pfizer jab at Newcastle’s Royal Infirmary. Dr Shulka (pictured right) was awarded an OBE for his race relations work in his home city of Newcastle
Britain is the worst-hit European country from the pandemic, with over 61,000 deaths from COVID-19, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to turn the tide against the disease by rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before the United States or European Union (file photo)
‘Having been in contact with the NHS staff, I know how hard they all work and I am grateful for everything they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic.’
Having moved to the city in 1974, Mr Shukla has spent much of his life promoting race relations both as a volunteer and professionally.
He became director of the Tyne and Wear Racial Equality Council and worked tirelessly for three decades trying to ease tensions between communities.
Britain is the worst-hit European country from the pandemic, with over 61,000 deaths from COVID-19, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to turn the tide against the disease by rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before the United States or European Union.
‘It’s a big relief, because it’s not an ordinary crisis,’ Dr Shukla said.
About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week, with care home residents and carers, the over 80s and some health service workers the top priority to receive the shots.
Britain’s daily Covid cases may be starting to slowly creep up again, official statistics suggested today after health chiefs recorded another 14,718 infections – but deaths continue to fall
How people could get ‘mix and match’ Covid vaccines: UK scientists will trial giving people multiple types of jab to boost different parts of their immune systems
Brits could get ‘mix and match’ coronavirus vaccines to try and stimulate different parts of their immune systems.
Scientists on the country’s Vaccine Taskforce yesterday said they would trial giving people a dose of one type of jab and then a booster with a different type.
All the vaccines that are close to approval – or already over the line – in Britain need two doses each to be most effective at preventing Covid-19.
But, because they work in different ways, getting doses of different jabs could ‘maximise’ the immune response and give better, longer lasting protection.
Chief of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Kate Bingham, said researchers in the UK would start trials of this method, known as ‘heterologous prime-boost’, next year.
Britain will today become the first country in the world to start vaccinating the public against Covid-19 with a jab made by Pfizer and BioNTech, which was approved by the MHRA regulator after clinical trials suggested it was up to 95 per cent effective.
Two more vaccines – by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and US pharmaceutical company Moderna – have also had successful clinical trials. Oxford’s is expected to be given out by the NHS before the end of the year.
Ms Bingham and colleagues on the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce revealed their plans for the mix-and-match trial in a briefing on Monday.
They said the idea was ‘not rocket science’ and that it was a long-standing theory that vaccines would work better this way, but it hadn’t been trialled in the real world.
Small trials taking only around two months could be organised, they said, with people only getting vaccines that were proven to be safe and effective on their own.
Only vaccines approved by the Government could be used, said the deputy chair of the Taskforce, medicines discovery expert Dr Clive Dix.
The thinking behind it is different vaccines provoke different parts of the immune system – the main substances being antibodies and T cells.
Ms Bingham said: ‘You’d do a prime with one vaccine, as in your first jab would be with one vaccine format, and then the second – whether it’s 28 days or two months, or whatever the agreed period would be – would be with a different vaccine.
‘The reason to do that is, for example, the viral based vaccines trigger a much greater cellular response than, say, mRNA.
‘Antibodies block the uptake of viruses into cells, and the T cells identify those cells that have been infected and then take them out, so you ideally want to have both.
‘So the idea of trying to mix and match is so that you can maximise the strength of that immune response to protect people against viral infection.’
The mass inoculation programme could fuel optimism the world may be turning a corner in the fight against the pandemic that has crushed global economies and killed more than 1.5million people.
Dr Shukla paid tribute to those who had worked day and night on producing the shot and rolling it out at unprecedented speed.
He said: ‘We are very grateful to them, and also proud of them that they have done that.
‘I’m not nervous, or anything like that. I’m looking forward.’
It comes as today NHS England’s chief executive Sir Simon Stevens heralded the roll out of the vaccine the ‘turning point’ in the battle against the pandemic.
He said the vaccine would protect the most vulnerable in society and paving the way for the easing of some restrictions by spring.
Hospital hubs across the country now have stocks of the Pfizer vaccine and will start vaccinating over-80s, care home staff and health workers in the first wave of the programme.
The main focus will be on over-80s, who will have either been invited for the vaccine while attending an outpatient appointment or be an inpatient at the hospital.
Care home staff are also being invited in the first tranche of vaccines, with any unfilled appointments taken by NHS staff to ensure no doses go to waste.
Writing in the Mail, Sir Simon says NHS staff have been working around the clock to manage the huge logistical challenge of deploying the Pfizer vaccine.
Urging readers to ‘play their part’ and take up the jab when it is offered to them, he said: ‘We can take heart that we are now beginning to have the tools to beat this terrible virus back.’
But he warned that it will take ‘some months to reach everyone at risk’ and urged the public to continue to take great care for the sake of themselves, their loved ones and the NHS.
His comments come as the Prime Minister said the UK is taking a ‘huge step forward’ in its fight against coronavirus.
Boris Johnson said he was ‘immensely proud’ of the scientists who have developed the vaccine, shown to be 95 per cent effective across all age groups.
Sir Simon said delivering the vaccine presents ‘complex logistical challenges’ as it must be kept at -70C (-94F) until it is needed and only moved a limited number of times.
But he is confident the first doses will get to those most in need, saying months of careful planning has gone into this day.
Some 800,000 doses of the jab have been delivered to the UK so far, enough for 400,000 people.
Hospitals have been told they will be expected to carry out a minimum of one box of vaccine – 975 doses – during the first week.
Once given the first dose, patients will be given a vaccination card stating the date of their crucial second dose, which must be given 21 days later for the vaccine to be fully effective.
Family doctors and other primary care staff have been put on standby to start delivering the jab from next week.
Some 280 GP vaccine hubs are expected to start administering the jab from Monday, with more practices across the country joining in throughout December.
They have been advised that they will need to use the vaccine within three-and-a-half days, not the previously suggested five days, to adhere to regulatory requirements set by the MHRA, the UK’s medicines regulator.
Mass vaccination centres at sports grounds and conference centres are not expected to open until the new year, once the alternative Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has been given the go-ahead by regulators.
A graphic shows how the Pfizer jab will work, by entering the patient’s cells, causing the immune system to produce antibodies and activate T-cells ready to destroy those infected with coronavirus
A graphic demonstrates the order of priority in which the vaccine will be rolled out, starting with residents in care homes
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the rollout of the first coronavirus vaccine – dubbed ‘V-Day’ – is a ‘landmark day for the country and momentous day for the NHS’
Fears over new Covid ID cards that Britons will get after vaccination
Every Briton will be handed a Covid-19 vaccination ID card proving they have received the jab and urged to keep it with them at all times with Tory MPs today accusing the Government of bringing in an immunity passport by stealth.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly has said millions of people in the UK will have their lives ‘unlocked’ by having the coronavirus jab with a card to prove it.
When asked if the cards were passports by another name, Mr Cleverly repeatedly dodged the question but told Sky News that he hoped that they would not be required as a ‘ticket’ to get into pubs, restaurants or sporting events. He added: ‘Ultimately it’s about unlocking people’s lives and the economy’.
MailOnline has asked NHS England, which is managing the vaccine rollout, whether it will be mandatory to carry the card. They are yet to respond.
Critics have said the proof of vaccination cards appear easy to fake, with one saying: ‘No photo, no details. What could possibly go wrong?’. Another tweeted: ‘Not long until they are ready to buy on internet for self completion. Literally just a cardboard card, no security or anything!’
Tory former minister David Jones believes the Government needs to make clear that the UK cards must not be used to stop people living their lives – and if necessary Boris Johnson should legislate to ensure that is the case. He told MailOnline: ‘It should be an entirely free decision [to carry a card]. I think people should be vaccinated but I don’t think they should be influenced by whether they can get into a restaurant or get into a theatre. That is the danger of having things like this. People may well be told, well you can’t come in unless you produce your card. I don’t think that is right.’
One way to legislate would be to make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on whether they have had the vaccine. Or ministers could clarify in existing coronavirus regulations that businesses do not have the right to see the cards, as they are medical records.
Critics fear the cards are a huge step towards the immunity passport the Government has vehemently denied it wants to bring in. Questions also remain about the need for the Covid-19 card when they are not standard with the flu jab, for example.
Hospitals have now cared for more than 190,000 seriously ill Covid-19 patients and have seen beds fill up again in recent weeks, according to Sir Simon.
A further 14,718 people tested positive for coronavirus and there were a further 189 deaths reported yesterday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country can finally ‘breathe a collective sigh of relief’ as vaccinations get underway today.
He said: ‘We will look back on today – V-day – as a key moment in our fightback against this terrible disease, and I am proud our health services… are about to embark on our largest ever vaccination programme.
‘Now’s the time to sit tight and remain patient until you get notified by the NHS it’s time for your vaccination.’
Britain became the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine last week, after regulators gave Pfizer/BioNTech’s jab the green-light. Rigorous scientific trials have found it is 95 per cent effective, works in the elderly and is safe.
No10 has ordered 40million doses of the jab, which will arrive in batches and be shared equally among the UK.
No other vaccines have yet to be approved — but officials hope Oxford University’s jab will be rubber-stamped before Christmas.
Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething yesterday confirmed all seven health boards in Wales will begin vaccinating people from tomorrow morning.
He told a press conference in Cardiff the first set of vaccines are ‘ready to be deployed’ and would be available to just under 19,000 over-80s, care home staff and NHS workers.
But care home residents won’t be able to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Wales just yet despite being front of the queue because ‘of the practical delivery arrangements’, Mr Gething said.
Scotland has received an initial batch of 65,000 doses ahead of tomorrow’s roll-out, while Northern Ireland has around 25,000 shots for the first part of the mammoth operation.
The logistics of storing and transporting the complex Pfizer vaccine had delayed plans to make care home residents the first to receive the jabs.
The vaccine currently comes in packs of between 975 and 4,875 doses, which must be used within six hours of being transported – even if kept refrigerated in special cool bags.
Many care homes have only dozens of residents, meaning that even the smallest package would be far too many doses and lay hundreds of precious jabs to waste.
This unpacking process – which will be done by licensed private contractors working for the NHS – needs to be signed off by the MHRA, but sources last night said the issue was expected to be resolved imminently.
The issue may become redundant once the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – which does not require the same super-cold storage – is approved.
Downing St’s top advisers believe Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine — which Britain has ordered 100million doses of — will be approved before Christmas.
The jab — which trials have shown is 60 per cent effective — is much easier to transport because it can be stored in normal fridges or even at room temperature.
It took the MHRA eight working days to give Pfizer’s vaccine the go-ahead after the Department of Health officially requested they evaluate it.
If AstraZeneca’s can be done within the same time frame, a decision could be announced as soon as today.
The Pfizer Vaccine: A Q&A
Is the vaccine definitely safe?
Yes. The vaccine has been developed quickly but has gone through the same rigorous testing process as any other medicine before it is approved by regulators.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has stressed that no stage has been skipped, but simply sped up because it is an emergency.
Following the ebola crisis, emergency funding mechanisms were put in place, allowing money to be allocated quickly.
And new technologies – specifically the mRNA process previously only used in cancer treatments – has also sped up the process.
Were the trials big enough?
The Pfizer vaccine was tested on 43,500 people from diverse backgrounds across six countries. This is a large sample for safety data to be based on and no concerns were raised. While the UK regulator was first to approve it, European and American watchdogs are expected to follow suit and give the green light very soon.
What is an MRNA vaccine and can it affect genetic code?
No. Injecting mRNA does not do anything to the DNA of a human cell. The mRNA carries the genetic information of the Covid-19 virus and tricks the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself.
It works by introducing a messenger RNA molecule into the body, which gives the body instructions to build copies of the protein spikes on the Covid-19 virus. The immune system then learns to recognise and produce antibodies against the protein.
What are the reported side effects?
The reported side effects were mild, with the worst cases comparing it to a ‘severe hangover’ which cleared up quickly. The most common side effects were fatigue (4 per cent) and headache (2 per cent) after the second dose, given 21 days after the first vaccine.
What about longer term?
While there could be problems that are still unknown, most vaccines show up adverse side effects quickly. The most recent example was with swine flu, when around 900 cases of narcolepsy – a condition that causes sufferers to fall asleep suddenly – were reported a few weeks after vaccination.
However, this was still very rare, with a study finding that around one in 55,000 jabs was associated with narcolepsy. The MHRA has said it will be actively monitoring the rollout of the vaccine through its yellow card reporting system.
This will enable anyone to report side effects that they believe were caused by the vaccine.
I’ve had coronavirus, do I need the vaccine?
Yes. A recent study led by Public Health England found levels of antibodies, which neutralise a virus before it enters the body’s cells, fell dramatically in many patients a few months after recovery.
What’s more, the diversity in the immune response from natural infection might be because of differences in the amount of virus to which the person was exposed.
With a vaccine, everyone gets the same dose and therefore the same level of protection.
Why won’t pregnant women be offered it?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) has advised that pregnant women do not get the vaccine because there is no data as yet on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, has said the guidance for pregnant women is a precaution and not a sign that the JCVI has identified a ‘terrible problem’.
And no children?
It is normal for vaccines to be tested on adults before children, which would require a totally separate paediatric testing programme. Pfizer has now started testing its vaccine on children as young as 12.
SIMON STEVENS: V-Day is a historic moment… and you can play your part
This is a landmark day for our country and a momentous day for the NHS as we begin the biggest vaccination campaign in our history.
NHS staff have been pulling out all the stops to prepare for ‘V-day’.
When nurses deliver the first ‘jabs’ this morning it will be the culmination of months of hard work by many people here and abroad, and the latest intervention from the NHS to help protect the public from Covid-19.
When the first jab is given today, scientists, doctors and health professionals will have together achieved in months what normally takes years.
So it’s right to say a huge thank you to all those who have worked tirelessly to develop the vaccine, to the volunteers who selflessly took part in the trials and the expert regulators for the thorough job that they have done in ensuring it is both safe and effective.
This is a landmark day for our country and a momentous day for the NHS as we begin the biggest vaccination campaign in our history, writes Sir Simon Stevens
Of course, it will take some months to reach everyone at risk as more vaccine supply comes online.
So in the meantime we need to continue to take great care.
Too many of us have lost loved ones or seen them face serious illness. And all of us have endured the pain of separation, isolation and anxiety that have resulted from needed social distancing measures.
So after such a testing year we can take heart that we are now beginning to have the tools to beat this terrible virus back.
But while we celebrate progress it is vital we do not let down our guard.
Following the guidance on ‘hands, face and space’ will only be more important as we head into the festive season.
As everyone knows, prevention is better than cure.
Since the first cases were diagnosed back in January NHS staff have given their all to care for almost 200,000 patients with Covid-19 while keeping other essential services going. NHS staff are raring to go and today is just the first step on the road back to normality.
Delivering the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine presents complex logistical challenges as it must be kept at -70C until it is needed and can only be moved a limited number of times after leaving the manufacturer.
That is why we are starting vaccinations at 50 hospital hubs this week, then expanding to more hospitals in the coming weeks, along with GP surgeries and care homes.
Community pharmacists and vaccination centres housed in sports venues and conference centres will be stood up as more supplies come on-stream in the new year.
The NHS has a proven track record of delivering vaccines for diseases including tuberculosis, polio, and meningitis.
The history of the health service is one of innovation and staff are now showing the same agility in delivering the vaccine that they did during the first wave of infections, when hospitals were rapidly reconfigured to respond to the pandemic.
Daily Mail readers can play their part. The NHS will contact you when it is your turn to receive the vaccine. And when you are contacted, please do take up the offer.
As our doctors have said, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and delivering the programme is the work of months rather than days or weeks.
But when we come to look back on today, all of us in the health service hope that it will mark a decisive turning point in our shared battle against coronavirus.
HOW DO THE OXFORD, MODERNA AND PFIZER/BIONTECH VACCINES COMPARE?
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have both released interim results of the final stage clinical trials of their vaccines, with both suggesting they are extremely effective.
Oxford University has published the findings from its second phase, which show the jab provokes an immune response and is safe to use – it is not yet clear how well it protects against coronavirus in the real world.
Here’s how they compare:
PFIZER (US) & BIONTECH (DE)
OXFORD UNIVERSITY (UK)
How it works:
mRNA vaccine – Genetic material from coronavirus is injected to trick immune system into making ‘spike’ proteins and learning how to attack them.
mRNA vaccine – both Moderna’s and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines work in the same way.
Recombinant viral vector vaccine – a harmless cold virus taken from chimpanzees was edited to produce the ‘spike’ proteins and look like the coronavirus.
How well does it work?
94.5% effective (90 positive in placebo group, 5 positive in vaccine group) .
95% effective (160 positive in placebo group, 8 positive in vaccine group).
62% – 90% effective, depending on dosing.
How much does it cost?
Moderna confirmed it will charge countries placing smaller orders, such as the UK’s five million doses, between £24 and £28 per dose. US has secured 100million doses for $1.525billion (£1.16bn), suggesting it will cost $15.25 (£11.57) per dose.
The US will pay $1.95bn (£1.48bn) for the first 100m doses, a cost of $19.50 (£14.80) per dose.
Expected to cost £2.23 per dose. The UK’s full 100m dose supply could amount to just £223million.
Can we get hold of it?
UK has ordered five million doses which will become available from March 2021. Moderna will produce 20m doses this year, expected to stay in the US.
UK has already ordered 40million doses, of which 10million could be available in 2020. First vaccinations expected in December.
UK has already ordered 100million doses and is expected to be first in line to get it once approved.
What side effects does it cause?
Moderna said the vaccine is ‘generally safe and well tolerated’. Most side effects were mild or moderate but included pain, fatigue and headache, which were ‘generally’ short-lived.
Pfizer and BioNTech did not produce a breakdown of side effects but said the Data Monitoring Committee ‘has not reported any serious safety concerns’.
Oxford said there have been no serious safety concerns. Mild side effects have been relatively common in small trials, with many participants reporting that their arm hurt after the jab and they later suffered a headache, exhaustion or muscle pain. More data is being collected.