By Chelsie Sewell
An 80-year-old ward housekeeper was the first to receive the Pfizer/BionTech Covid-19 vaccine in Leeds today.
Sylvia Harris joined Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust when she was 26 and has been shielding during the pandemic.
She said: “I miss all the people I work with. I’m so glad I’ve got it done.”
St James’ Hospital, where the drug was administered, was one of the first 53 hubs in the country to have access to the vaccine, along with others in Chesterfield, Sheffield and Hull.
90-year-old Margaret Keenan was the first in the world to receive the vaccine at her local hospital in Coventry.
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.”
The vaccination programme will be rolled out to patients aged 80 and above, care home residents and staff, and healthcare workers who are at the highest risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
The life-saving drug is delivered by simple injection but there is a complex logistical challenge to deliver from the manufacturers to patients. It needs to be stored at -70C and can only be moved four times.
Speaking at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, nurse May Parsons said: “It’s a huge honour to be the first person in the country to deliver a Covid-19 jab to a patient, I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day.
“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Today is just the first step in the largest vaccination programme this country has ever seen.
“It will take some months to complete the work as more vaccine supplies become available and until then we must not drop our guard.
“But if we all stay vigilant in the weeks and months ahead, we will be able to look back at this as a decisive turning point in the battle against the virus.
“Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved Covid-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement.”
He praised all those involved in delivering the new vaccine programme.