A 90-year-old British grandmother became the first person in a Western country to receive an approved coronavirus vaccine, as Britain rolled out Pfizer-BioNTech’s drug in the biggest inoculation drive in its history.
Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was “the best early birthday present” and added: “My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.”
Britain last week became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.5 million worldwide.
Britain has been one of the worst-affected countries in the world, with more than 61,000 deaths in the outbreak from 1.6 million cases.
Keenan received the jab in front of cameras at a hospital in the central English city of Coventry, followed by an elderly man called William Shakespeare.
The jab was administered by May Parsons, a nurse originally from the Philippines who has worked for Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) for 23 years.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Keenan, a former jewelry shop worker who has two children and four grandchildren.
The over-80s care home workers and at-risk frontline health and social care staff are first in line to get the jab, on what has been dubbed “V-Day”. A second jab is required in 21 days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent days in intensive care with Covid-19 earlier this year, called it a “huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus”.
The head of the state-run National Health Service in England, Simon Stevens, said it was a “decisive turning point” against the “greatest health challenge” since the NHS was founded in 1948.
Regulatory approval for the vaccine was given last Wednesday, sparking a race against time to prepare scores of vaccination centres across the country.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the jab — enough to vaccinate 20 million people — with 800,000 in the first batch.
Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December.