The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford begins vaccinating patients against coronavirus today (December 8), as the biggest immunisation programme in history gets underway.
The hospital is one of 50 hubs to start vaccinations for people aged 80 and over as well as care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk.
Eighty-year-old great-granddad Kenneth Lamb, from New Romney, was the first patient to receive the vaccine at William Harvey Hospital this morning.
Kenneth, who has 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, said: “I couldn’t believe it when they phoned to say I could have the vaccine – but I didn’t have to think twice about it.
“We have been staying at home for most of the pandemic, only really going out for shopping. My great-granddaughter Rosie is six months old and we’ve only seen her on video call – I haven’t been able to give her a cuddle and I’m really looking forward to being able to do that.
“I have the flu jab every year so this is the same as that. It makes sense to me to have it.”
Ivy Smith, 97, also had her #CovidVaccine this morning at WHH.
She said: “They called me yesterday and I was quite excited about it. I cook for myself and look after myself so I want to stay well so I can carry on staying at home.
“This is the first time I have been out since March and it’s to a hospital but I don’t mind because it means I can have the vaccine.
“I think I’m the oldest person having it today but I’m young at heart.”
Since the Pfizer vaccine was approved by regulators last week, health service staff have been working around the clock to manage the logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.
Susan Acott, Chief Executive of East Kent Hospitals, said: “This is a truly momentous day. Staff from East Kent Hospitals have worked extremely hard to prepare for the launch today and I want to pay tribute to them.
“We are privileged to be able play a part in delivering this life-saving vaccine.”
The hospital is contacting people directly to invite them to have the jab, which is typically delivered by a simple injection in the shoulder.
GPs and other primary care staff are also preparing to start delivering the vaccine. A number of GP-led primary care networks will begin this next week with others joining in on a phased basis during December.
While today represents a milestone in the response to Covid, Kent and Medway remains under Tier 3 restrictions due to high infection rates across many parts of the county.
Dr Navin Kumta, Ashford GP and clinical chair of Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The vaccine is the long term game changer. But everyone will need two doses given about a month apart. So right now we still need to continue to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s critical that anyone with symptoms self-isolates; along with everyone in their household.
“We all need to keep washing our hands regularly and properly; wearing masks and keeping two metres from others wherever possible.”