The vial of the first dose of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to be used outside a trial – administered last Tuesday to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan from Coventry – has been added to a collection of artefacts documenting the pandemic.
The empty vial has been acquired by London’s Science Museum as well as “stay at home” signs from the daily Downing Street briefings, homemade masks and other items that curators believe will provide a record of the UK’s response to the disease.
Last week, Keenan attracted global attention when she become the first patient in the world outside of a trial to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, following its approval in the UK.
The vial will join the Science Museum’s Covid collecting project, which is designed to document the national emergency prompted by the pandemic and the “enormous social change” it has caused.
Dr Emily Lawson, who is heading the NHS’s Covid-19 mass vaccination programme, said: “As a scientist who eagerly visited the Science Museum as a young girl I am delighted that these NHS and world-first items will be hosted here, rightly documenting the historic moment for generations to come.
“This is the biggest global health challenge in generations and Maggie aged 90 from Coventry getting the very first jab, and so kickstarting the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history, marks a significant turning point in our fight against coronavirus,” added Lawson, chief commercial officer and vaccine lead for the NHS.
The empty vial will go on display at the Science Museum, which already has the lancets used in the first vaccinations back in 1796, early next year.
Meanwhile new research by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori reveals that a third of people say they’ve seen or heard messages discouraging the public from getting a coronavirus vaccine.
It found that nearly half of 16- to 34-year-olds have seen or heard such messages, with Facebook by far the top source.
About 40% of people who get a significant amount of information on the pandemic from WhatsApp and YouTube believe the real purpose of the vaccination programme is to track and control the public.
And 42% said they don’t know whether a Covid vaccine may cause autism in children, with high levels of uncertainty about other health-focused conspiracies, according to 2,244 interviews carried out at the end of last month with UK residents aged 16 to 75.
The interviews found that a fifth of 16-34-year-olds believe that the philanthropist Bill Gates wants a mass vaccination programme against coronavirus so that he can implant microchips into people.
Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the policy institute at King’s College London, said: “It’s clear that some harmful views have taken hold among a minority of the public.
“Working with social media platforms to control the spread of misinformation is therefore an important action – but the main focus should not be on this niche belief in extreme conspiracies.”
It follows reports that the British military is investigating concerns that malicious groups and hostile states, notably Russia, are attempting to target UK citizens with disinformation as the country becomes the first in the world to begin a mass immunisation campaign.
Military information warfare units are understood to be assisting Whitehall officials identify the most effective anti-vaccine disinformation channels originating from overseas.
Because Britons are the first to choose whether to take the new Pfizer vaccine – still to be licensed by other countries – officials are aware they may be susceptible to conspiracy theories.