LONDON (Reuters) – A retired race relations official from northern England has spoken of his relief at being among the first people in Britain to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the roll-out which starts on Tuesday.
Britain will start dispensing the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday, the first Western country to begin vaccinating its population against infection from the new coronavirus.
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.
“When I received a telephone call, I was very excited that I got the opportunity of joining in and taking part,” said Hari Shukla, 87, who is from Newcastle and a former director of the local Racial Equality Council.
“It’s a big relief, because it’s not an ordinary crisis.”
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.
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 1.5 million people.
Shukla paid tribute to those who had worked day and night on producing the shot and rolling it out at unprecedented speed.
“We are very grateful to them, and also proud of them that they have done that,” Shukla said. “I’m not nervous, or anything like that. I’m looking forward.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; additional reporting by Parniyan Zemaryalai; Editing by Mike Collett-White)