Matt Hancock ‘emotional’ as country begins rollout of coronavirus vaccine
Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said he is feeling “emotional” as the NHS becomes the first health system worldwide to begin administering the coronavirus vaccine.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is hoped to be the “way through” the coronavirus crisis, Mr Hancock said – with a 90-year-old woman from Coventry being the first person vaccinated against the virus.
Locally, the vaccine will begin being administered at Colchester Hospital from Wednesday, with Ipswich Hospital set to start offering the vaccine once it receives freezers suitable to store the vaccine, which must be kept at -70C.
Mr Hancock told Sky News: “I’m feeling quite emotional actually watching those pictures. It has been such a tough year for so many people and finally we have our way through it – our light at the end of the tunnel as so many people are saying.
“And just watching Margaret there - it seems so simple having a jab in your arm, but that will protect Margaret and it will protect the people around her.
“And if we manage to do that in what is going to be one of the biggest programmes in NHS history, if we manage to do that for everybody who is vulnerable to this disease then we can move on.”
However, Mr Hancock said now is not the time to give up on following restrictions, with the government set to begin thinking about lifting restrictions in the spring.
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He added: “It’s great news that we are the first country in the world to have this clinically authorised and being able to roll out this programme.
“And when enough people who are vulnerable to Covid-19 have been vaccinated then, of course, we can lift the restrictions... we think that will be in the spring.
“It’s very important for everyone watching that whilst we vaccinate people – and we will do that at the pace at which the manufacturers can produce the vaccine – whilst we vaccinate people and whilst we get the second dose in, we’ve got to hold our nerve, we’ve got to stick together and we’ve got to follow the rules.
“It is no good everybody relaxing now – we’ve got to hold firm until the vaccination programme has reached enough vulnerable people so that we don’t have people dying from coronavirus in the number that we do today.”
Margaret Keenan, the first person to receive the jab, said receiving it was “the best early birthday present” she could wish for.
The grandmother of four said: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19, 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.
“I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.”