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Biotechnology

A UK woman aged 90 was the first in the world to receive the Pfizer vaccine today

The UK's vaccination program has officially started.
December 8, 2020
90 year old Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the UK to receive a covid-19 vaccine.
90 year old Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the UK to receive a covid-19 vaccine.
90 year old Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the UK to receive a covid-19 vaccine.Associated Press

The news: The UK started vaccinating its population against covid-19 today, becoming the first country to start distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, less than a week after its approval. It is being given to elder-care home workers and people over 80 first, with a 90-year-old woman named Margaret Keenan the first to receive it outside a clinical trial, at University Hospital Coventry. The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 20 million people, or roughly a third of the country’s population. The UK government is expecting to receive a total of 4 million doses of the vaccine by the end of December. The UK has recorded more covid-19 deaths than anywhere else in Europe—over 60,000. Its regulators are currently also considering whether to grant emergency approval for the AstraZeneca-Oxford University covid-19 vaccine candidate, too.

How it’s being administered: The process is complicated by the facts that the vaccine has to be stored in special freezers at -70 °C, it comes in packs of 975 doses that cannot currently be split into smaller batches, and each individual has to receive two doses, three weeks apart. As a result, inoculations are initially being administered from 50 hospital hubs around the country.

What’s happening elsewhere: The US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee is expected to meet on December 10 to decide whether to grant the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine emergency approval, and will meet again on December 17 to consider Moderna’s application for its vaccine. Both Russia and China have already started vaccinating their populations.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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