There have been some dark days for Britain over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, but thankfully today was not one of them. Tuesday 8 December has been hailed as ‘V-day’ as the UK became the first country to begin its mass vaccination programme. Tens of thousands of Brits received their injections, including Margaret Keenan, 90, the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer jab outside of a clinical trial, and William Shakespeare, 81, from Warwickshire, who was the second.
Across the world, all eyes have been on the UK today. Here’s how the foreign press covered the start of the biggest mass vaccination programme in the NHS’s history.
New York Times:
The New York Times is not typically favourable in its coverage of goings-on in Britain but it made an exception today. It said the NHS rollout of the jab was a programme with ‘little precedent in modern medicine’. But the paper did sound a note of caution. It said that the speed with which British regulators had approved the injection had started ‘a spirited debate about whether Britain had moved too hastily, or if the United States was wasting valuable time as the virus was killing about 2,200 Americans a day over the last week’. Coverage of British patients receiving the vaccine dominated the front of the NYT’s homepage this afternoon, a rare event for a newspaper which typically focuses on domestic events:
Wall Street Journal:
The WSJ also focused its attention across the Atlantic to hail a ‘first for the West’. It said the British vaccine programme could become ‘a template for other countries, including the U.S. of the practicalities and pitfalls of vaccinating at speed and scale’. The paper said that the UK population was more receptive to vaccination than Americans (79 per cent of Brits said they would take the injection, compared to 64 per cent of those in the US), and suggested that the way in which the doses were dished out would offer a useful model for the US as it starts its own vaccination programme in the coming days. The WSJ detailed how experts in medical logistics were on hand to ensure that the vaccines – which has to be kept frozen, upright and away from light – were ready for the first patients to receive.
Spanish paper El Pais focused on the inoculation programme in Gibraltar, which is due to start at the end of this week. The British Overseas Territory will receive 35,000 doses – enough for half of the 33,718 residents in Gibraltar (each person requires two doses) to be vaccinated. Some of the 9,000 Spaniards who cross the border to work on the Rock each day are also due to be vaccinated in the coming days. The paper spoke to Antonio Sánchez, a Spanish cross-border worker who works at a children home, who said offering the jabs to those visiting Gibraltar to work was a ‘wise policy’.
French paper La Figaro suggested that the Queen could lead by example by being ‘among the first people to receive an injection’. ‘The mass vaccination campaign has started with a great drum roll,’ the paper said, suggesting that 'V-day' was an opportunity for Boris Johnson to show that he has ‘regained control after being accused of erratic management’ of a crisis that left Britain among the worst affected nations in Europe, in terms of the number of deaths.