This morning, Britain’s biggest vaccine program began with patient “A” – the first person to receive the vaccine as part of the rollout called “Operation Courageous.”
The U.K. is the first country in the world to authorize and deploy the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, a point of pride for the country with the highest death toll in Europe.
The scale of the nationwide operation is unprecedented with the Army drafting volunteers, and Britain’s national health service hiring tens of thousands of extra staff to cope.
The drugs arrived in the country last week, transported from the production facility in Belgium in special freezer containers, keeping the drugs between minus 60 and minus 90 degrees, Celsius.
50 hospitals in England have been chosen as initial hubs administering the vaccine, where staff already have the specialist equipment needed for storing the vaccines at those extreme temperatures.
The British government has slated frontline health staff, the elderly, and care home workers to be the first in line. The order determined by which groups are deemed most vulnerable to the infection.
The first phase of the operation involves 800,000 doses. But, treatment requires two doses per person, spaced 21 days apart meaning 400,000 people will be vaccinated initially and full immunity starts seven days after the second dose.
Next, the rollout will include doctors, surgeries and emergency treatment centers that are being opened on unused stadiums and conference centers across the U.K.
The phase of the vaccine program involving those under 50 will start later in 2021.