Boris Johnson today branded the coronavirus vaccine a “shot in the arm for the entire nation” and told people who are scared, “don’t be”.
The Prime Minister hailed the achievements of scientists as he watched the first jabs going into arms at London’s Guy’s Hospital – one of 70 NHS hubs.
Mr Johnson also slammed anti-vaxxers as “totally wrong” and insisted the Pfizer jab – which the UK is the first country in the world to approve for mass rollout – is safe.
He said: “I would say to all those who are scared, don’t be”.
The Prime Minister added: “There is nothing to be nervous about.
“What I would say is that there are those obviously who feel that a vaccine is something they object to politically or for ideological reasons.
“I think they are totally wrong. It’s safe, it’s the right thing to do, it’s good for you and it’s good for the whole country.
“It’s going to take a while. I urge people to contain their impatience.”
He went on: “It will gradually make a huge, huge difference, but I stress ‘gradually’ because we are not there yet, we have not defeated this virus yet. We can’t afford to relax now.”
He tweeted: “There is light at the end of the tunnel. It is crucial we all continue to stay safe by following public health advice.”
Despite the jab being rolled out to care home residents and over-80s, followed by other priority groups, people are being urged to continue following social distancing rules.
It takes about a month to gain immunity after the first dose, and even then, scientists don’t yet know if vaccinated people could still transmit coronavirus asymptomatically.
While the government has promised “several million” doses by New Year’s Day, most jabs for the 25million most vulnerable – including over-50s – will only be in Spring.
Mr Johnson added: “There is one crucial point I want to get to people.
“People don’t realise how easy it is to transmit this disease asymptomatically, without symptoms.
“1 in 3 people is passing it on without even having any symptoms at all.
“So you can be a secret spreader of the disease. I don’t think people have grasped that. It’s very very important in the weeks ahead that everybody understands that. We didn’t realise in the beginning quite how easily the disease can be spread without symptoms.”
It comes after Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person in the UK to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
In historic scenes dubbed ‘V-day’, the grandmother was given the jab at 6.31am in Coventry.
There are still big questions about when all 40million doses of the Pfizer jab will reach the UK – and when lockdown restrictions can start to be lifted.
The government is saying “several million” doses will arrive by December 31 but has dropped a pledge of 10million.
Some 25million people are in priority groups, including all previous shielders and all over-50s, and most of them aren’t expected to be vaccinated until next year.
Matt Hancock said “we’ve still got a march ahead of us” and it’s not yet known if the vaccine stops recipients transmitting Covid to others.
But asked if he imagined “we’ll be wearing masks for most of next year”, the Health Secretary told LBC: “I don’t think so.
“I think that by Spring we should be out of the measures, I really hope.
“And I hope that we have a normal summer this summer coming.
“I think people have got used to wearing masks in certain circumstances. I want to get back to living by personal responsibility rather than by laws we’ve had to pass through parliament. And now we can see the route to getting back to that.”