UK health authorities begin the NHS's largest ever vaccination programme on Tuesday, as Britain becomes the first country in the world to use the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
The national vaccination programme, dubbed "V-Day" by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, has been touted as a "huge step forward" by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who emphasised that he was "immensely proud" of the scientists who have worked on the vaccine and heaped praise on NHS staff for working "tirelessly" to make the rollout of inoculation happen.
"Today marks a huge step forward in the UK's fight against coronavirus, as we begin delivering the vaccine to the first patients across the whole country. I am immensely proud of the scientists who developed the vaccine, members of the public who took part in trials, and the NHS, who have worked tirelessly to prepare for rollout. But mass vaccination will take time, and we must remain clear-eyed about the challenges that remain. As the programme ramps up in the weeks and months ahead, it is as important as ever to keep to the Covid winter plan - following the rules in your area and remember the basics of hands, face and space," the Prime Minister stated.
As many as 50 hospital hubs are expected to start vaccinating high-priority groups such as health workers, care home workers and people aged over 80 with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Earlier, British ministers have said that they were confident that as many as 800,000 doses of the US-German vaccine would arrive in the UK by this week.
Last week, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. At the time, Boris Johnson described the vaccine use authorisation as "fantastic" news, saying that it was the protection of vaccines that will help "reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again".
Many countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, were forced into toughening social distancing measures earlier in the fall as the continent faced a second wave of COVID-19.
The British government has agreed to ease measures over the upcoming Christmas holidays by allowing up to three households to mix from 23-28 December. The UK now has over 1.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and the country's COVID-19 death toll stands at over 61,000.