Minister: U.K. Has Given Nearly 140,000 People COVID Shots

LONDON (Reuters) -
A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in a surgery in Wolverhampton, Britain, Monday. (Reuters/Carl Recine/File Photo)

Nearly 140,000 people in the United Kingdom have received their first COVID-19 shots in the first week of rollout of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the minister in charge of the program said on Wednesday.

The vaccine was approved for emergency use two weeks ago, with rollout commencing on Dec. 8, making Britain the first country to deploy the shot outside of clinical trials.

“A really good start to the vaccination program. It’s been 7 days and we have done: England: 108,000, Wales: 7,897, Northern Ireland: 4,000, Scotland: 18,000. U.K. Total 137,897,” Nadhim Zahawi said in a tweet.

“That number will increase as we have operationalized hundreds of PCN [primary care networks],” he said.

People have to receive two doses of the vaccine, 21 days apart, so no one who has received their first dose is fully protected yet.

The first batch of vaccine that Britain received contained 800,000 doses, which must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94F) or below, and can be stored in a fridge for five days once thawed.

In all, Britain has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that he expects to receive millions of doses of the vaccine by the end of the year.

The United States and Canada both began rolling out the vaccine on Monday.