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U.K. gives 1st COVID-19 vaccine doses, begins mass immunization campaign

Last Updated Dec 8, 2020 at 7:42 am PDT

Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital, Coventry, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. The United Kingdom, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, is beginning its vaccination campaign, a key step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

The U.K. has begun its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, administering the first shot to a 90-year-old woman Monday

U.K.'s vaccine rollout comes after British regulators approved Pfizer's COVID-19 candidate for use last week

People in the United Kingdom are rolling up their sleeves Tuesday to get a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the western world’s first mass coronavirus vaccination program.

A 90-year-old woman was the very first to receive the shot, created by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.

Calling her “Patient A,” Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, got vaccinated at 6:31 a.m. local time on what U.K. public health officials have called “V-Day.”

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Keenan, who wore a surgical mask and a blue Merry Christmas T-shirt decorated with a cartoon penguin wearing a Santa hat. “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.”

She was first in line at University Hospital Coventry, one of several hospitals around the country that are handling the initial phase of the U.K.’s program. As luck would have it, the second injection went to a man named William Shakespeare, an 81-year-old who hails from Warwickshire, the county where the bard was born.

British regulators authorized the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine last week. European Union regulators may also approve the vaccine in the coming days or weeks.

Canada vaccine approval pending

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government had secured a deal with Pfizer that would see up to 249,000 vaccine doses arrive in Canada by the end of the year.

This hinges on Health Canada approval of the vaccine candidate, however, officials have said they expect a positive decision.

Trudeau said first shipments of the vaccine could arrive as early as next week. If approved by Health Canada this week, he said the first inoculations could also begin next week when the initial shipment arrives.

“Shipments will continue to arrive into 2021, with millions of doses on the way. This will move us forward on our whole timeline of vaccine rollout, and is a positive development in getting Canadians protected as soon as possible,” Trudeau said.

The initial round of vaccines will be divided among the provinces on a per-capita basis.

When it comes to who should receive the COVID-19 vaccines first, the government of Canada has recommended the elderly, health care workers, and adults in Indigenous communities should be at the beginning of the line.