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Grandma, 90, is first in world to receive fully-tested Covid-19 dose

UK begins mass vaccination but its PM says virus not beaten yet

LONDON : A 90-year-old grandmother became the world's first person to receive a fully tested Covid-19 shot yesterday, as Britain began mass-vaccinating its people.

Health workers started inoculating the most vulnerable with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, with the country a test case for the world as it contends with distributing a compound that must be stored at minus 70 deg C .

Ms Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 in a week, was the first to receive the shot, at a hospital in Coventry, central England.

"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," she said.

The launch of the vaccine, one of three that have reported successful results from large trials, will fuel hope that the world may be turning a corner in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people.

Britain, the worst-hit in Europe with more than 61,000 deaths, is the first Western nation to begin mass vaccinations and the first globally to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.

But despite the relief of people receiving the first dose of the two-dose regimen, they will have to wait three weeks for their second shot, and there is no evidence immunisation will reduce transmission of the virus.

"It will gradually make a huge, huge difference. But I stress gradually, because we're not there yet. We haven't defeated this virus yet," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he expected millions to be vaccinated by the end of the year, but cautioned that people should respect social-distancing rules until spring at least, when he hopes the most vulnerable people would be vaccinated.

A World Health Organisation official also said on Monday that curbs are still needed.

"Vaccines are a great tool, they will be very helpful, but the effect of the vaccine in providing some kind of immune barrier is still far off," said Dr Margaret Harris when asked about whether the vaccines would come in time to prevent a third wave of cases in Europe.

"The things that must be done to prevent an increase, an uptick, a surge or whatever you want to call it are the public health measures," she added. - REUTERS

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