Ms Margaret Keenan, the 90-year-old grandmother who became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine outside of a trial in Britain on Tuesday, has a message for others: “Go for it” to beat the devastating disease.
An early riser, Ms Keenan, from Northern Ireland, received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot at her local hospital in Coventry, central England, on Tuesday, a week before she turns 91.
A video showed her being wheeled out of the ward while nursing staff clad in protective gear lined the corridor to applaud and cheer, an echo of moving video clips released through the year when Covid-19 survivors left hospital.
90-year-old Margaret Keenan is the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, administered by Matron May Parsons, as UK's mass vaccination programme begins https://t.co/3eBGv3RUsU pic.twitter.com/ltWAL8uDmr— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) December 8, 2020
“I say go for it, go for it because it’s free and it’s the best thing that has ever happened,” Ms Keenan told reporters as cameras flashed and television reporters asked questions. “If I can do it, well, so can you,” she told any doubters.
Known as Maggie to her friends, Ms Keenan said she had stuck by the rules and spent most of the year on her own as the “devastating” pandemic took hold. The vaccine means she can start to look forward to spending time with her family and friends again.
Britain is the first Western country to start immunizing its population in what has been hailed as a turning point in the battle to defeat the disease. It is the worst-hit country in Europe with more than 61,000 deaths.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Ms Keenan said, before discussing plans for her birthday.
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.
Video footage showed the former jewelery shop assistant wearing a light blue mask, a grey cardigan and a blue T-shirt with a penguin in snow and the message “Merry Christmas”.
She received the shot in her left arm from nurse May Parsons, who has worked in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) for 24 years.
The mass inoculation will fuel hope that the world may be turning a corner in the fight against a pandemic that has crushed economies and killed more than 1.5 million.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Prof Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, said they had both found it emotional watching the vaccine program rollout. Mr Hancock wiped away tears on live television.
Elsewhere in the world, China and Russia have also started vaccinating their citizens against Covid-19 with in mass inoculation campaigns.