Grandmother Margaret Keenan, 90, became the world’s first patient to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 on December 8 – since when she has celebrated her 91st birthday and received her second, follow-up dose.
Tens of thousands of people received the Pfizer vaccine in the first week of rollout – and hundreds of thousands more have been vaccinated since then.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said this approval was “fantastic news” and confirmed the roll out of this second vaccine would begin on January 4.
When will people be told they can have the vaccine?
Due to certain groups being prioritised for the vaccine, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is initially being offered in 50 hospital hubs across England to the over 80s, as well as care home staff.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that typically, these would be people already in hospital for outpatient appointments. These people will be contacted by their hospital if they are eligible for the vaccine; they don’t need to contact the hospital themselves.
In Scotland, more than 50,000 people in Scotland have already received the Pfizer vaccine at hubs set up in hospitals across the country. In Wales, each health board has received its share of vaccines, which are being distributed to those prioritised. By mid-December, more than 50,000 doses had been delivered to Northern Ireland for vaccinations, according to BBC News NI.
Due to logistics, the main bulk of priority vaccinations with the Pfizer/BioNTech will happen in the new year rather than in December.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca said it was building a manufacturing capacity of up to 3 billion doses of the Oxford vaccine worldwide, with aims to supply the UK with millions of doses in the first quarter in 2021.
All of the above will follow the prioritisation list set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
How will people be told?
Prioritised groups will be called upon to take the vaccine either from their GP or hospital via a letter from the NHS or their local health board.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock urged those who are called forward for vaccination by the NHS “to respond quickly, to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community”.
How many vaccines do you need?
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is given in two doses, three weeks apart. Data from clinical trials showed the vaccine is 94% effective in protecting people over the age of 65 from coronavirus, with trials suggesting it works equally well in people of all ages, races and ethnicities.
People receiving the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine will also need two doses. However, people don’t need to receive both doses before protection against the virus begins. Matt Hancock said the decision by regulators that the second dose of the Oxford vaccine can be administered up to 12 weeks after the first would speed up its rollout.
However, unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature for at least six months, so distributing and administering is expected to be easier.
Where will the vaccinations take place?
The vaccine is initially being offered in 50 hospital hubs across England. In addition to hospital hubs, the vaccine will be delivered through local community services, including GPs and, eventually, through pharmacies. “GPs will be in touch with their at-risk patients inviting them to come forward for vaccination,” said Sir Stevens.
At a later stage, vaccination centres are expected to pop up in conference centres and sports venues so large numbers of people can be vaccinated.
Who will be administering the vaccines?
Trained healthcare professionals will be administering the vaccines in hospitals and GP surgeries. There has been talk of volunteers signing up to help with delivery of the vaccine, which may help demand when the pop-up vaccination centres are launched.
A NHS spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost UK that anyone who will be giving out the vaccine will be put through proper training to be able to safely deliver it.
Who will be prioritised for the vaccine?
Older adult residents in a care home and care home workers
All those 80 years of age and over. Front line health and social care workers
All those 75 years of age and over
All those 70 years of age and over
All those 65 years of age and over
All Individuals aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions.
All those 60 years of age and over
All those 55 years of age and over
All those 50 years of age and over
The rest of the population (priority to be determined)
The “second phase” of the vaccine roll out could also include specific occupations who are most at risk, such as teachers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, the military, civil servants and emergency services under 50 years of age.
What are the underlying health conditions that will mean those aged 16 to 64 will be prioritised?
Chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and severe asthma
Chronic heart disease (and vascular disease)
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic liver disease
Chronic neurological disease including epilepsy
Severe and profound learning disability
Solid organ, bone marrow and stem cell transplant recipients
People with specific cancers
Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment
Asplenia and splenic dysfunction
Severe mental illness
What about pregnant women?
Preliminary advice suggested the Pfizer vaccine was not recommended for women who were pregnant or breastfeeding – but this advice has now been revised by experts.
Both the Oxford and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines can be given to pregnant or breastfeeding women, subject to a discussion with a doctor of their individual medical condition and history.
At a Downing Street briefing on December 30, Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI, and Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Commission on Human Medicine expert working group, confirmed that pregnant and breastfeeding women could receive either vaccine, subject to medical advice and a weighing up of risk with their GP.
This update has been welcomed by many women, as the previous advice would have made them ineligible for the vaccine for anything from nine months of pregnancy to several years of breastfeeding their child.
Now two vaccines are available, will people have a say over which vaccine they would like.
It’s very unlikely people will be able to decide which vaccine they have – there are several types of flu vaccine, for example, and people are given the most appropriate vaccine relevant to their age and health. This will most likely be the case with the new Covid-19 vaccines, too. However all vaccines will be put through rigorous testing before being approved for public use.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.