The biggest mass vaccination campaign in the history of the NHS has begun, with the arrival of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab that protects against COVID-19. The vaccine was found to be safe and effective by the UK medicines regulator MHRA and approved for administration to the over-16s.

BBC News reports that the first vaccine in the UK was given to 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan on Tuesday 8 December, the first of the 800,000 vaccines received in the UK and to be distributed over the coming weeks.

There are also two other vaccines on the way, one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the other from Moderna, which are expected to be approved soon and ready for widespread use.

But who will get the vaccines first?

The most vulnerable, accounting for around a quarter of the UK population, will be first to receive the jab, as set out in a list of nine high-priority groups, thought to represent 90 to 99 per cent of those at risk of dying from COVID-19:

  • Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
  • 80-year-olds and over and frontline health and social care workers
  • 75-year-olds and over
  • 70-year-olds and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  • 65-year-olds and over
  • 16 to 64-year-olds with serious underlying health conditions
  • 60-year-olds and over
  • 55-year-olds and over
  • 50-year-olds and over

The first to get the vaccine will be those aged over 80 in hospital frontline health staff and care home workers, to be administered at designated hospital hubs across the UK. This will be followed by care home residents, which is expected from 14 December.

People will be vaccinated twice – around 21 days apart – and full immunity starts seven days after the second dose.

The next phase, which is not expected to begin until well into 2021, will focus on the rest of the UK population, mainly the under-50s, who are much less likely to fall ill to the coronavirus, and therefore less of a priority.

When the vaccine is available, you will be invited to book an appointment as soon as it’s your turn, and vaccinations will take place in the aforementioned hospital hubs, care homes, GP surgeries, and sports stadiums and conference centres acting as vaccination hubs.

The NHS is recruiting 30,000 volunteers to aid with the rollout, including lifeguards, airline staff and students, who will be given training to administer the jabs.

The aim is to get as many people as possible over the age of 16 to get vaccinated – over 50 million people. While there is no set timeframe for this massive undertaking, it is the long term plan for 2021.

The NHS has plenty of experience delivering vaccines to huge numbers of people; for example, this winter’s flu jab should reach 30 million. The vaccine won’t be compulsory though – no other vaccines in the UK are – and experts say this approach doesn’t help create confidence in the vaccine.

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