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The United Kingdom began on Tuesday to administer to the most vulnerable people the first doses of a vaccine against the new coronavirus, hoping from this historic campaign, the first in a Western country, “a huge step forward” in its fight against the pandemic.

The United Kingdom begins, Tuesday, December 8, to deploy the vaccine against Covid-19 developed by the American laboratory Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, becoming the first western country to start a vaccination campaign for its population in the hope of stemming the epidemic.

“This day marks a huge step forward in the United Kingdom’s fight against the coronavirus”, welcomed the Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “But mass vaccination will take time,” he warned, calling for continued compliance with the restrictions in place.

“A decisive turn in the fight against the pandemic”

As the UK is the European country most affected by the health crisis, with more than 61,000 deaths, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to reverse the trend by putting Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine into circulation ahead of the United States and the European Union.

“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive shift in the fight against the pandemic,” said one of the leaders of the British health services (NHS), Simon Stevens. “NHS staff are proud to lead the way in becoming the first health service in the world to start immunization.”

Some 40 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech have been ordered. As two doses are needed per person, this will enable 20 million people to be vaccinated out of the country’s 67 million inhabitants.

About 800,000 doses are expected to be available during the first week. In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, priority is given to residents and employees of nursing homes. Caregivers and those over 80 will follow, and so on by decreasing age.

Authorities hope to vaccinate the nine priority categories by spring, which include those over 50, caregivers and people at risk. They represent 99% of deaths.

According to British newspapers, queen elizabeth ii, 94, and her husband Prince Philip, 99, will be vaccinated soon. They could even do it in public in order to encourage as many people as possible to be vaccinated and to counter the antivaccines.

Other celebrities or influencers on social networks could be involved, the tabloid The Mirror citing the singer Bob Geldof or the guitarist of the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood. The Minister of Health said he was ready to be vaccinated live on television.

40% of Britons fairly confident

The deployment of the vaccine serves as a test for the distribution networks of Pfizer and BioNTech, while the doses of the vaccine must be stored at a temperature of -70 degrees and for a maximum of five days in a conventional refrigerator.

In addition to the technical challenges, the authorities have embarked on a pedagogical exercise to convince the British of the importance of being vaccinated, fearing to meet with skepticism from some.

According to a YouGov poll released on Monday, 28% of Britons are “very confident” of the safety of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and 40% “somewhat confident”, 23% say they are “not very confident” or “not at all confident”.

With AFP and Reuters

The Covid-19 vaccine race.
The Covid-19 vaccine race. © Graphic studio France 24

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