It’s been dubbed “V-Day” in Britain – recalling the D-Day landings in France that marked the start of the final push in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany.
A week after the UK became the first western European country to authorise widespread use of a vaccine against COVID-19, it is preparing to administer its first shots on Tuesday in its war on the virus.
Those 800,000 doses will first go to people over 80 who are either hospitalised or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers.
In other words, the National Health Service is saying to the waiting public, in effect: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Only those who have been contacted by the NHS to arrange an appointment will be getting the jab.
Most people will have to wait until next year before there is enough vaccine on hand to expand the program.
“I don’t think people should expect anything over the next few days because the reality is that for the vast, vast, vast majority of people this will be done in January, February, March,” said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.
“And the one thing that we don’t want people to get anxious about or concerned about is ‘Where’s my letter?’ in December.”
Public health officials around the globe are watching the UK’s rollout as they prepare for the unprecedented task of rapidly vaccinating billions of people to end the pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million worldwide.
The UK is getting a head start on the project after British regulators on December 2 gave emergency authorisation to the vaccine produced by US drug maker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.
US and European Union authorities are also reviewing the vaccine, alongside rival products developed by US biotechnology company Moderna and a collaboration between Oxford University and drug maker AstraZeneca.
On Saturday, Russia began vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and others at dozens of centres in Moscow with its Sputnik V vaccine.
That program is being viewed differently because Russia authorised use of Sputnik V last northern summer after it was tested in only a few dozen people.