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Welsh Doctor On Getting Vaccinated Against The Coronavirus

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The United Kingdom has become the first Western country to begin a mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19. Thousands of Brits received the first dose today of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The country is starting with two highest-priority groups - that is, people over 80 years old and health care workers on the front line of the fight against the virus. One of those health care workers is Dr. Matthew Morgan. He works in the ICU at a hospital in Cardiff, Wales. Welcome.

MATTHEW MORGAN: Thank you very much. Thank you.

CHANG: So I understand that you received your first dose today just a few hours ago. What was that like?

MORGAN: I did. It's been a good day, a busy day. I have an arm which isn't aching at all at the minute.

CHANG: Oh (laughter).

MORGAN: There's a tiny little plaster on it. But other than that, I'm doing very well.

CHANG: Well, were you surprised that you haven't been feeling any side effects whatsoever?

MORGAN: Well, I think as health care professionals, we have vaccinations quite regularly. I have the flu vaccine annually as part of work. And really, although the excitement of the day was there, to some extent, it was just the same as any other vaccine. It was just the same as having the flu vaccine in terms of the process.

CHANG: Interesting. Well, as an ICU doctor, you and your colleagues have seen the worst of this disease. And I'm wondering if you can just talk about - what's the mood been like today at your hospital?

MORGAN: You know, it's been an odd mood in many ways. It's kind of a combination of feeling proud, hopeful, but also realistic. And I say proud because it was 38 weeks to the day that we admitted the first critically ill patient with COVID to our ICU. And it's remarkable to think that in less than the duration of a pregnancy, 38 weeks, we now have gone from that to actually having a vaccine. And that's a remarkable achievement for science, for medicine and humanity, really.

CHANG: It certainly is.

MORGAN: I'm also realistic because this changes everything, but it changes nothing. And in many ways, the biggest danger of this vaccine is complacency.

CHANG: Well, I'm glad that you brought that up because I want to just underline that. I mean, what exactly - what substantively changes, if anything at all, changes because of the fact that you are now vaccinated? What changes as you continue to treat COVID patients? Anything?

MORGAN: Yeah, at the minute, nothing changes practically or physically. We'll be wearing the same PPE. We'll be following the same advice for hand-washing, not touching faces, social distancing. But, gradually, as the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, I hope this will be the start of a new-new normal.

CHANG: Well, the U.K. is hoping to administer hundreds of thousands of doses of the vaccine by the end of the year. But that could take many months to spread, you know, beyond the highest-priority group. So what's your message to your family, your friends and your fellow Brits as all of them await their turn for a vaccine?

MORGAN: Well, I think there's two things to say, really. First of all, it's that there is hope. There is some light at the end of that tunnel. There's also been a lot of discussion about safety. But for me, the most dangerous bit of having that vaccination today was the car journey to get there. You know, everything in life has risks. Driving has risks, but we do it because it has benefits. And it's just the same as this vaccine. It has tiny risks, but it's got huge benefits - benefits for me not getting sick, hopefully my family not getting sick, my patients not getting sick, my colleagues not getting sick and even strangers hopefully not getting sick.

CHANG: Dr. Matthew Morgan is an ICU doctor at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Thank you very much for joining us today.

MORGAN: Thank you, all. Stay safe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.