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UK begins administering 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine, developed by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, is given in two shots, three weeks apart.

LONDON, UK — Some people in Britain have now received their second and final dose of the coronavirus vaccine as the country’s immunization program rolls on.

Margaret Keenan, 91, became the first person in the U.K. to get the vaccine, on Dec. 8. She then had the follow-up injection Tuesday at a hospital in the central England city of Coventry.

Hospital chief executive Andy Hardy says: “We were delighted to welcome Margaret Keenan back to Coventry’s University Hospital today to safely receive the second dose of the vaccination after she became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 (vaccine) following its clinical approval.”

The vaccine was developed by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, and is given in two doses three weeks apart. Its developers say it conferred 95% immunity in clinical trials.

It is not yet clear how long immunity will last on average for those who've received the vaccine, or if a booster shot will be needed in the future. Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he would be "surprised" if the vaccine gave lifelong immunity, as has been the case for the measles vaccine. 

Moncef Slaoui, head of the U.S. vaccine development effort expects immunity to last for "many, many years."

Credit: AP
90 year old Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, administered by nurse May Parsons at University Hospital, Coventry, England, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

British officials are also considering tougher coronavirus restrictions as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients surpasses the first peak of the outbreak in the spring. 

Authorities are blaming a new, more transmissible variant of the virus for soaring infection rates. England had 20,426 coronavirus patients in hospitals as of Monday, above the previous high of 18,974 on April 12. 

Almost half of the people in England are under strict restrictions on movement and everyday life in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to hold a meeting of his COVID-19 crisis committee later Tuesday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is scheduled to update Parliament on Wednesday on whether more areas will be put into Tier 4 — the top level of lockdown measures — and whether the restrictions could be tightened even further.

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