Health

‘We’re all going on a summer holiday!’ UK’s vaccine tsar says

Kate Bingham, head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, said it was her ‘gut feeling’ that summer holidays will be back on the cards next year and social distancing could be scrapped

Summer holidays could be back on the cards next year and social distancing may be scrapped, Britain’s vaccine tsar suggested this morning.

Asked when life could return to normal, Kate Bingham, head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, said it was her ‘gut feeling’ that ‘we will all be going on summer holidays’.

She hoped that elderly and vulnerable Britons will all be vaccinated against coronavirus by then, which could spell an end to draconian lockdown rules. 

Ms Bingham warned Covid-19 was here to stay forever so people will need to maintain sensible hygiene and continue to regularly wash their hands. But she said the country will be in a ‘much better place’ by summer. 

The NHS has this morning started the biggest vaccination drive in British history at 50 hospital sites, with thousands of over-80s, care home staff and NHS workers expected to be inoculated with Pfizer/BioNTech’s jab today. 

Ms Bingham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘My gut feel is that we will all be going on summer holidays.

‘It is likely that those people most at risk will be vaccinated through to April, and then the JCVI and the Department for Health will then consider how to broaden out the vaccinations to other adults.

‘I think by the summer we should be in a much better place to get on planes. I don’t think we’re going to get away from this virus ever – so we’re going to have to maintain sensible hygiene and washing hands, and so on.

‘I would like this vaccine to be as routine as an annual flu jab and that we manage it rather than get bowed down by it.’ 

The moment Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, administered by nurse May Parsons, at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history

The moment Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry, administered by nurse May Parsons, at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK’s history

Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, was the first person in the world to get an approved the Pfizer jab since it was approved by the UK’s regulator – calling it ‘the best early birthday present I could wish for’ after self-isolating alone since March.

The next to get the jab was 81-year-old William Shakespeare from near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, who appeared so relaxed many joked that to him, being the second person in the world to be vaccinated was ‘much ado about nothing’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was emotional as he watched Mrs Keenan getting the jab this morning after a grim 2020, and cried on Good Morning Britain as Mr Shakespeare hailed the ‘groundbreaking’ jab that will ‘start changing our lives’.

Mr Hancock wiped away tears as he told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid: ‘It’s been such a tough year for so many people and there’s William Shakespeare putting it simply for everybody that we can get on with our lives’.

But in a gloomy warning for Britain he added: ‘There’s still a few months to go, I’ve still got this worry that we can’t blow it now Piers, we’ve still got to get the vaccine to millions of people so we’ve got to keep sticking to the rules, there’s so much work gone into this – it makes me proud to be British’.

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 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

A graphic demonstrates the order of priority in which the vaccine will be rolled out, starting with residents in care homes

LIST OF THE 50 HOSPITAL HUBS IN THE FIRST WAVE OF COVID-19 VACCINE PROGRAMME 

  • Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Suffolk And North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust
  • James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Norfolk And Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust
  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Croydon Health Services NHS Trust
  • St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Denmark Hill
  • King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Princess Royal University Hospital
  • Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Coventry And Warwickshire NHS Trust
  • Royal Stoke Hospital
  • Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust
  • United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Shrewsbury And Telford Hospital NHS Trust
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • South Tees NHS Trust
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital
  • Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
  • Stockport NHS Foundation Trust
  • Blackpool Teaching Hospital
  • Lancashire Teaching Hospital Trust
  • Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust – Wexham Park Hospital
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – William Harvey Hospital
  • Brighton And Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust – Royal Sussex County Hospital
  • Portsmouth University Hospitals Trust
  • Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
  • Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust
  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Bristol NHS Trust

At 6.30am, wearing a bright blue ‘Merry Christmas’ T-shirt, Mrs Keenan, known as ‘Maggie’ to friends and family, could be seen smiling under her mask as the nurse May Parsons at University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire injected her with the life-saving medicine.

Mrs Keenan, a former jewellery shop assistant who only retired four years ago, has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren. She said: ‘I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19, it’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year. I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.’

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, which is 95 per cent effective.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: ‘Today the first vaccinations in the UK against COVID-19 begin. Thank you to our NHS, to all of the scientists who worked so hard to develop this vaccine, to all the volunteers – and to everyone who has been following the rules to protect others. We will beat this together’.

Maggie Keenan, who is originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, but has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years, described the moment she was vaccinated, in a world-first, at 6.31am.

‘It was fine – I wasn’t nervous at all,’ said the mother-of-two.

Mrs Keenan said she was looking forward to a ‘little rest’ before she was due to be discharged, as early as Wednesday.

She is now planning a small family gathering for Christmas and her birthday next week, after last year’s landmark 90th festivities.

Earlier, talking to the PA news agency while waiting for her injection from nurse May Parsons, she quipped she was hoping for a trip to ‘Barbados’.

She added: ‘I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90, then you can have it too.’

Mrs Keenan was among up to 100 people set to have the jab, which arrived in an insulated container just minutes before the inoculation.

It had to be carefully handled according to strict clinical controls.

Asked how she felt about being first in line for the jab, she said: ‘It hasn’t sunk in yet,’ adding she initially thought staff were having her on.

The grandmother-of-four said she ‘thought it was a joke to start with’ and said: ‘I couldn’t believe it.

‘I’m happy it’s happened and now I’ve done it.

‘At the moment I don’t know how I feel, just so strange and so wonderful really,’ she added.

‘This is for a good cause and I’m so pleased I had it done.’

Mrs Keenan said she ‘never’ thought she would be the first person having the vaccine as part of the national rollout.

‘This is a terrible disease so we do want rid of it, so anything that helps is a bonus, isn’t it, really?’ she said.

She said to those who might be having second thoughts about getting vaccinated: ‘I say go for it, because it’s free and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened.

‘Go for it. If I can do it; well, so can you,’ she said.

Although she knew of nobody personally who had been affected, Mrs Keenan said she and her family had ‘stuck by the rules and we’ve got our own little bubble now’.

Commenting on the effect of the global pandemic, she said: ‘(It’s) terrible what it’s done to people, it’s so sudden and so devastating to see what they’re going through, really.’

She was later wheeled back to her ward, where nursing staff formed a guard of honour, cheering and applauding Mrs Keenan, who was visibly emotional at the gesture.

Mrs Keenan said: ‘I am looking forward to Christmas.

‘I didn’t think I’d be getting home so soon from hospital.

‘I’m spending Christmas with four of my family members and then we’ll see what happens in the new year, but I’m looking forward to Christmas – yes I am.’

After the vaccination, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis tweeted: ‘Fantastic to see Enniskillen woman, Margaret, receive the first vaccine this morning!

‘The rollout starts today in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the country – supplied by the U.K. Government & administered by our brilliant NHS. £VDay.’

Mr Shakespeare, the second person to receive the vaccine, said he was ‘pleased’ to be given the jab.

He added: ‘I need to say, the staff at this hospital are wonderful.’

A Royal Navy veteran who was on the front line in WWII has joined the ‘V-Day’ battle against Covid-19 by becoming one of the first people in the world to receive the vaccine against the virus.


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