The biggest vaccine campaign in NHS history kicked off this morning, as 60-year-old Tharmini Gopalakrishnan became the first person to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jab at St George’s.

Tharmini, who works in a care home in Chessington, was vaccinated at 8.20am today (Tuesday 8 December).

After receiving her jab, Tharmini said: “I’m feeling good. I’m most grateful and I thought I must have it. This will be very helpful and you can work fearlessly and you will feel you are not carrying anything to the clients. We want to protect them.”

Tharmini was vaccinated by Arezou Rezvani, Consultant Midwife at St George’s. Speaking this morning, Arezou said: “I’m leading on the vaccine programme at St George’s. I was the first to give one.

“It was quite emotional, actually. I had tears in my eyes, which was quite surprising – I qualified as a nurse in the Nineties and I have been giving jabs for years.

“The lady saw my name badge and said “you are a midwife. I had my baby here years ago and I wanted to come to St George’s and give something to St George’s.”

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens praised all those involved in delivering the new vaccine programme.

“Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved Covid-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement,” Stevens said.

“A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone who has made this a reality – the scientists and doctors who worked tirelessly, and the volunteers who selflessly took part in the trials. They have achieved in months what normally takes years.

“My colleagues across the health service are rightly proud of this historic moment as we lead in deploying the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.

“Today is just the first step in the largest vaccination programme this country has ever seen. It will take some months to complete the work as more vaccine supplies become available and until then we must not drop our guard. But if we all stay vigilant in the weeks and months ahead, we will be able to look back at this as a decisive turning point in the battle against the virus.”

The phased vaccination programme will see patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, among the first to receive the life-saving jab.

Care home providers are also being asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to begin booking staff in to vaccination clinics. GPs are also expected to be able to begin vaccinating care home residents.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from Covid-19.

Health chiefs have set out how they will deliver the mammoth task ahead, using hospital hubs, vaccination centres and other community locations as well as GP practices and pharmacies.

The life-saving vaccine is typically delivered by a simple injection in the shoulder but there is a complex logistical challenge to deliver from the manufacturers to patients. It needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain ahead of use.

Arezou Rezvani, Consultant Midwife, administering the first vaccine to Tharmini Gopalakrishnan. Photo credit: Jeremy Selwyn