London: An 87-year-old man and his 83-year-old wife from the north east of England on Tuesday became the first Indian-origin couple in the world to get inoculated with their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a hospital in Newcastle.
Dr Hari Shukla, a race relations campaigner based in Tyne and Wear, had been contacted by the National Health Service (NHS) based on the criteria set for the world's first vaccine, which received regulatory approvals in the UK last week. His wife, Ranjan, then volunteered for the jab as she also falls within the priority group of people aged 80 and over who are eligible to receive the "life-saving jab".
They joined 90-year-old Margaret "Maggie" Keenan from Coventry, the very first person in the world to receive her shot, followed by 81-year-old William Shakespeare.
Keenan, who turns 91 next week, called it 'the best early birthday present I could wish for' after being in self-quarantine since March. She celebrated her global fame in typical British-style - with a nice cup of tea, reports Daily Mail. 'I can now look forward to spending time with my family after being on my own for most of the year,' she added.
Britain has received 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far - that's enough for 400,000 people; four million more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are set to arrive in the UK before the end of the December; Britain recorded 189 Covid-19 deaths on Monday and had14,178 new cases - a rise of 19.4% compared to last Monday;
81-year-old William Shakespeare appeared relaxed as many joked that to him, being the second person in the world to be vaccinated was 'much ado about nothing'.
"I'm so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and will do whatever I can to help," said Shukla, who was born in Kenya and whose father hailed from Mumbai.
Shukla, who has been honoured with an MBE, OBE and CBE for his work as the Director of the Tyne and Wear Race Equality Council over the years, was notified by the NHS based on the criteria set by the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation as part of a phased rollout plan based on those at the highest risk of death from the deadly virus.
"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," said British Prime Minister Prime Johnson.
However, he struck a note of caution to warn that mass vaccination will take time and urged the public to remain "clear-eyed" and continue to follow the lockdown rules over the winter months ahead.
"We will look back on today, V-day, as a key moment in our fight back against this terrible disease, and I am proud our health services across the United Kingdom are about to embark on our largest ever vaccination programme," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who got teary eyed during television interviews on Tuesday as he declared he felt "proud to be British".
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used. General Practitioners (GPs) and other primary care staff have also been put on standby to start delivering the jab on a phased basis. Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently start up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream, with a bulk of the rollout expected in the early part of the New Year.