'The Lord of the Rings' actor Sir Ian McKellen, 81, receives COVID-19 vaccine

The UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 after 'rigorous' analysis by its independent regulator, paving the way for mass vaccinations among people at the highest risk of death from the deadly virus.

Veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen, best known for his role in films like "The Lord of the Rings", and "X Men" to name a few, received the vaccine in the first week itself.

The 81-year-old told Daily Mail, “It’s a very special day, I feel euphoric! Anyone who has lived as long as I have is alive because they have had previous vaccinations.”

“Of course, it’s painless… it’s convenient, and getting in touch and meeting NHS staff and saying thank you to them for how hard they’ve been working is a bonus. I would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone. I feel very lucky to have had the vaccine,” he added.

Besides McKellen, fellow actor Lionel Blair, TV producer Michael Whitehall, and restauranteur Prue Leith were also a part of the vaccination.

The distribution of the vaccine across the UK is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through systems specially adapted from those used successfully for the national immunisation programmes, the government said.

Around 800,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to be available in the UK from this week. In all, the government has ordered a total of 40 million doses, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, with two shots each, 21 days apart.

Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the "life-saving jab". Hospitals will also begin inviting over 80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff in to vaccination clinics.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers based on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's (JCVI) phased list of recipients based on the risk of death from the deadly virus.

As of Thursday, the overall number of global coronavirus cases has surpassed the 74 million mark, while the deaths have surged to more than 1.64 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload and death toll stood at 74,158,470 and 1,647,873, respectively.

With inputs from Agencies

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