randmother Margaret Keenan made history today as the first person to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jab — sending a beacon of hope around the world that the virus nightmare will end next year.
At 6.31am on “V-Day”, the quietly-spoken 90-year-old sat back in a chair at University Hospital Coventry and offered her left arm to nurse May Parsons to administer the first dose of the game-changing jab.
Wearing a blue Merry Christmas top, she hailed the vaccine as the “best thing that’s ever happened” and told of her joy that months and months of near isolation were coming to an end.
“I can finally look forward to spending time with family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year,” she said.
Known as Maggie, the former jewellery shop assistant who retired four years ago, will be 91 on Tuesday. When health staff offered her the jab, she said she “thought it was a joke to start with”.
“Hopefully it’ll help other people come along and do what I did, and try and do the best to get rid of this terrible thing,” she explained before being clapped by health workers as she left the vaccination centre.
“My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it — if I can have it at 90, then you can have it too.”
To those having second thoughts about getting vaccinated, she added: “I say go for it, because it’s free and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened.”
As the epic day in the battle against Covid-19 started to unfold, the second person to have the injection was 81-year-old William “Bill” Shakespeare, an in-patient on the Coventry hospital’s frailty wards who, appropriately, is local to his namesake’s county of birth, Warwickshire.
With patients being vaccinated in 70 hospitals across the country after the UK’s medicines regulator became the first in the world to approve the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine:
- Boris Johnson spoke to Lyn Wheeler, 81, who was the first to receive the jab at Guy’s Hospital in London. “It is really very moving to hear her say she is doing it for Britain — she is protecting herself but also helping to protect the entire country,” he said. However, he warned the nation: “We can’t afford to relax now,” stating that cases were rising in some areas including London and that tens of thousands of “secret spreaders” with no symptoms were infecting others.
- Matt Hancock, who broke down in tears as he was overwhelmed by V-Day, said several million people would be vaccinated by Christmas, with BioNTech saying more than five million doses would be delivered this month. The next batch is due next week. The Health Secretary added: “I have great hopes for summer 2021 and I hope we can lift the restrictions from the spring.”
- Coronavirus vaccine taskforce chairwoman Kate Bingham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My gut feeling is that we will all be going on summer holidays… I think by the summer we should be in a much better place to get on planes.”
- Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, said the aim was to get the vaccine into care homes before Christmas. Hailing “a turning point” , he said: “This really feels like the beginning of the end.”
Ministers are hopeful a second vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, will get the go-ahead within weeks.
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Tharmini Gopalakrishnan, 60, who works in a dementia care home in Chessington, was the first to receive the vaccine at St George’s Hospital, in Tooting. She was vaccinated at 8.20am. Hospital staff had called her yesterday to offer a slot.
She told the Standard: “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.”
Arezou Rezvani, a consultant midwife and registered nurse at St George’s who volunteered to help administer the jabs, vaccinated Ms Gopalakrishnan.
She 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.”