The NHS has today kickstarted the rollout of the new Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine with patients at Oxford University Hospital the very first to get the life-saving jab.
At 7.30 am dialysis patient Brian Pinker, who describes himself as Oxford born and bred, became the very first person to be vaccinated by the hospital’s chief nurse and in doing so chalking up another world first for the NHS and major milestone in the phased vaccination programme.
Brian, aged 82, a retired maintenance manager who has been having dialysis for kidney disease at the hospital for a number of years, was pleased to be getting protection against the virus giving him peace of mind as he continues to receive treatment and is now looking forward to celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary with wife Shirley in February.
He said: “I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford. 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.”
Chief Nursing Officer of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sam Foster, who administered the first Oxford Vaccine this morning, said: “It was a real privilege to be able to deliver the first Oxford Vaccine at the Churchill Hospital here in Oxford, just a few hundred metres from where it was developed. We look forward to vaccinating many more patients and health and care staff with the Oxford vaccine in the coming weeks which will make a huge difference to people living in the communities we serve and the staff who care for them in our hospitals.”
Hundreds of new vaccination sites are due to come onstream this week, joining the 700 which are already in operation.
The first Oxford AstraZeneca vaccinations will be delivered at a small number of hospitals for the first few days for surveillance purposes, as is standard practice, before the bulk of supplies are send to hundreds of GP-led services later in the week.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “The NHS’ biggest vaccination programme in history is off to a strong start, thanks to the tremendous efforts of NHS staff who have already delivered more than one million jabs.
“Throughout the pandemic their response has been phenomenal from introducing world-leading treatments for coronavirus which have saved patients’ lives as well as delivering the very first COVID-19 vaccines outside of a trial in a landmark moment in history, and now rolling out the new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, chalking up another world first that will protect thousands more over the coming weeks.”
Alongside Brian, music teacher and father-of-three Trevor Cowlett, aged 88, and Professor Andrew Pollard, a paediatrician working at OUH who also pioneered the Oxford jab, are among the first to be vaccinated today.
The new Oxford vaccine is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer jab, which has to be kept at minus 70 degrees until shortly before it is used, making it easier to deliver in care homes.
The NHS is giving GPs an extra £10 for every care home resident that they vaccinate by the end of the month.
Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, added: “It was an incredibly proud moment for me to have received the actual vaccine that the University of Oxford and the AstraZeneca teams have worked so hard to make available to the UK and the world. As a paediatrician specialising in infections, I know how important it is that healthcare workers along with other priority groups are protected as soon as possible – a crucial role in defeating this terrible disease.”
Last week, regulators and the four UK chief medical officers announced that the gap between first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine should be lengthened so that more people can be protected faster. Delivery of the Pfizer jab, the first vaccine to be approved, is therefore also now able to be accelerated.
The NHS has now vaccinated more people than anywhere else in Europe, including more than one in five people over the age of 80.