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Britain inoculates first patient with AstraZeneca vaccine

Brian Pinker on Monday became the first person in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Photo courtesy of NHS England and NHS Improvement/Twitter 
Brian Pinker on Monday became the first person in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Photo courtesy of NHS England and NHS Improvement/Twitter 

Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A 82-year-old retired maintenance manager became the first person in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University as Britain adds a second drug to the nation's arsenal as it seeks to ramp up its largest vaccination program in history.

Brian Pinker, a dialysis patient at Oxford University Hospital, received the first of two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at 7:30 a.m. Monday by the hospital's chief nurse, Sam Foster, as Britain begins the rollout of the new immunization medicine.

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"I am so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud that it was one that was invented in Oxford," the Oxford born and bred man said in a statement. "The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant and I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife, Shirley, later this year."

Foster said it was "a real privilege" to administer the first jab just a few hundred meters from where it was development, stating that they look forward to vaccinating more patients and staff in the coming weeks.

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The announcement came almost a month after British health officials began the world's first COVID-19 vaccine roll out on Dec. 8, injecting Margaret Keenan, 90, with the Pfizer/BioNtech shot.

Since then, more than a million people in Britain have been vaccinated against the virus, the NHS said in a release.

The health officials said the first batch of the domestic vaccine will be delivered to a small number of hospitals for surveillance purposes before the bulk of the doses is distributed to hundreds of general practice-led services later this week.

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Compared to the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, the one by Oxford/AstraZeneca is easier to store and transport as it does not need to be kept at minus 70-degree Celsius temperatures, NHS said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the Oxford vaccine in a statement on Sunday as "a triumph of British science."

The announcement came as Britain continues to battle skyrocketing cases and deaths.

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According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, Britain is sixth sickest country to the pandemic with more than 2.66 million infections and 75,000 deaths.

On Sunday, the country reported more than 55,000 cases in a single day, which is just shy of the record 57,000 cases it reported a day earlier.

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"We know there are challenges still ahead of us over the coming weeks and months, but I'm confident this is the year we will defeat coronavirus and start building back better," Johnson said.

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Britain became the first country in the world to give the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine emergency regulatory approval on Wednesday.

The British government said it has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine with more than half a million available starting Monday.

Some 730 vaccination sites have already opened with more scheduled to start operating this week, it said in a statement.

"Through its vaccine delivery plan, the NHS is doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible and we will rapidly accelerate our vaccination program," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. "While the most vulnerable are immunized, I urge everybody to continue following the restrictions so we can keep cases down and protect our loved ones."

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