Tributes paid after death of first man to have Pfizer jab in UK rollout

·3-min read

A former parish councillor who hit the headlines around the world as the first man to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has died of an unrelated illness.

William “Bill” Shakespeare, then aged 81, was the second person in the UK to receive a coronavirus vaccine outside a clinical trial.

Pictures of him receiving the injection at Coventry’s University Hospital last December – shortly after 90-year-old Margaret Keenan – made the front pages of numerous newspapers, including a New York Post report with the headline “Taming of the Flu”.

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Mr Shakespeare, who died after suffering a stroke, was proud of being one of the first to receive the vaccine, his wife Joy said in a statement released through University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

She said: “Bill was so grateful for being offered the opportunity to become one of the first people in the world to be given the vaccine.

“It was something he was hugely proud of – he loved seeing the media coverage and the positive difference he was able to make to the lives of so many.

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“He often talked to people about it and would always encourage everyone to get their vaccine whenever he could.”

Mr Shakespeare, a father-of two and grandfather-of-four who lived in Brownshill Green, Coventry, died peacefully last Thursday at University Hospital.

William ‘Bill’ Shakespeare death
A photo of Bill issued by his family (Family handout/University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust/PA)

Praising the care her husband received, his widow added: “All of the staff were so caring, compassionate and respectful and we couldn’t be more grateful. They are an absolute credit to their profession and the NHS.”

Born in Coventry, Mr Shakespeare served on Allesley Parish Council for more than 30 years, and as a school governor for over two decades.

The retired aero engineer was also involved in planting hundreds of trees in Coundon Wedge, Allesley, and in the creation of Coundon Wood.

His wife added: “Bill loved meeting people and helping them in any way possible. Most of all he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, nicknamed Pop Pops by the grandchildren. He left a huge imprint on everyone who knew him and will be greatly missed.”

Mr Shakespeare was an inpatient on a frailty ward when he received the vaccination.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

In a tweet paying tribute to him, the West Midlands Labour Party said: “We’re sorry to hear of the death of Coventry Labour stalwart Bill Shakespeare. Bill made global headlines as 1st first man to have Covid vaccine.

“His decades of service to the party were recently recognised by @Keir_Starmer. Our thoughts are with Joy and Bill’s family & friends.”

Coventry city councillor Jayne Innes said she was saddened and upset to hear of her friend’s passing.

The Labour councillor, who represents the Whoberley ward, offered her condolences to Mr Shakespeare’s family on Facebook, adding: “Bill will be remembered for many things, including a taste for mischief.”

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