A UK grandmother has become the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.
Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said the injection she received at 06:31 GMT was the “best early birthday present”.
It was the first of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that will be dispensed in the coming weeks.
Up to four million more are expected by the end of the month.
Hubs in the UK are starting the rollout by vaccinating the over-80s and some health and care staff.
Senior NHS sources told the BBC “thousands of vaccinations” had taken place across the UK on Tuesday.
Dubbing the day “V-day”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “a tribute to scientific endeavour and human ingenuity and to the hard work of so many people.
“Today marks the start of the fightback against our common enemy, the coronavirus,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on a visit to a London hospital to see some of the first people getting the jab, said getting vaccinated was “good for you and good for the whole country”.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Today we should all allow ourselves a smile – but we must not drop our guard.”
On Tuesday, the UK government reported a further 616 people had died within 28 days of a positive test, taking the total, by that measure, to 62,033. A further 12,282 people tested positive for the virus.
At University Hospital, Coventry, matron May Parsons administered the very first injection to Ms Keenan.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Ms Keenan, who is originally from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
“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.
“My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too,” she added.
Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, who witnessed the “historic moment”, said: “We couldn’t hug her but we could clap, and everybody did so in the room.”
Throughout the day, patients and health workers at some 50 hospitals around the UK have been getting the jab:
-Sister Joanna Sloan, who will head up the vaccine rollout in Belfast, received the first vaccine administered in Northern Ireland, just after 08:00 GMT at the Royal Victoria Hospital
– In Wales, a nervous Craig Atkins, 48, from Ebbw Vale, became the first person to get the jab. It was “scary” but he could smile now, the care home worker said
– Consultant anaesthetist Dr Katie Stewart was among the first people in Scotland to get the jab, saying there was something to celebrate after “a very long hard year” looking after Covid patients and staying apart to protect each other
The UK is the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week.
On Tuesday, US regulators confirmed the vaccine is 95% effective, paving the way for it to be approved for emergency use.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has also been found to be “safe and effective”, according to a paper published on Tuesday and assessed by independent scientists.
By Ononye VC