A 90-year-old grandmother has become the first person in the world to receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.
Margaret Keenan received the jab at 6.31am in Coventry on Tuesday, marking the start of a phased NHS rollout of the vaccine to older people, health staff and care home workers.
Jabs will be administered at 70 hospital hubs across the UK from Tuesday – dubbed “V-Day” by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Mrs Keenan, known to family and friends as Maggie, received the jab from nurse May Parsons at University Hospital in Coventry.
Mrs Keenan, who turns 91 next week, is a former jewellery shop assistant who retired four years ago.
She has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.
Mrs Keenan said: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19. It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.
“I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.
“I don’t mind the attention, it doesn’t bother me. I’m just happy to have it done.
“This is a terrible disease so we do want rid of it, so anything that helps is a bonus, isn’t it?”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised everyone involved in the vaccine’s development, tweeting: “Thank you to our NHS, to all of the scientists who worked so hard to develop this vaccine, to all the volunteers – and to everyone who has been following the rules to protect others. We will beat this together.”
Thank you to everyone who’s made this possible, from @MHRAgovuk clinicians, NHS admin staff, doctors, nurses, everyone who volunteered in the trials & those getting the jab today.
Let’s get this done! pic.twitter.com/fDixTMDXip
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 8, 2020
The UK is the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens praised 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,” Sir Simon 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.
“I also want to thank Margaret, our first patient to receive the vaccine on the NHS.”
Mrs Keenan has been self-isolating for most of this year and is planning on having a very small family “bubble” Christmas to keep safe.
Originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, she has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years.
She will receive a booster jab in 21 days to ensure she has the best chance of being protected against the virus.
NHS nurse Mrs Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient.
She said: “It’s a huge honour to be the first person in the country to deliver a Covid-19 jab to a patient, I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day.
“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
The NHS Covid-19 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 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.
Mr Hancock said that when enough vulnerable people have been vaccinated “then, of course, we can lift the restrictions … we think that will be in the spring.”
Reacting to the footage of Mrs Keenan getting her jab, he told Sky News: “I’m feeling quite emotional, actually, watching those pictures.
“It has been such a tough year for so many people and finally we have our way through it – our light at the end of the tunnel as so many people are saying.
“And just watching Margaret there – it seems so simple having a jab in your arm, but that will protect Margaret and it will protect the people around her.
“And if we manage to do that in what is going to be one of the biggest programmes in NHS history, if we manage to do that for everybody who is vulnerable to this disease, then we can move on.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Got a bit of a lump in the throat watching this. Feels like such a milestone moment after a tough year for everyone.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Tuesday is a “momentous day in our fight against Covid-19”.
He tweeted: “There is light at the end of the tunnel. It is crucial we all continue to stay safe by following public health advice.”