LONDON – A 90-year-old grandmother and an 81-year-old man called William Shakespeare have become the first people in Britain to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and the first in the world to be given the Pfizer/BioNTech jab as part of a national campaign.
Both were inoculated at University Hospital in the city of Coventry in central England, with 90-year-old Margeret Keenan being injected just after 0630 GMT and Shakespeare following 30 minutes later.
Over in Northern Ireland, a 28-year-old nurse called Joanna Sloan was vaccinated first, while in Wales and Scotland, several patients in different hospitals were all given jabs at the same time shortly after 8.30am.
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.”
The nurse who administered the injection, May Parsons, said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient. The Philippines-born nurse said that “now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock became emotional during an interview on television show Good Morning Britain, where he said it “made him proud to be British.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the development: “Today the first vaccinations in the UK against COVID-19 begin,” he tweeted. “Thank you to our NHS (National Health Service), to all of the scientists who worked so hard to develop this vaccine.”
The vaccine was developed by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer.
Britain approved the vaccine for use across the country on December 2, with the elderly in care homes and their carers being given top priority.
Having left the European Union earlier this year, Britain was able to give authorization while approval is still pending for the bloc.
The vaccine is being rolled out at 50 “hospital hubs,” due to the logistical challenges of storing it at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first vaccine to be approved by British regulatory body the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and is currently awaiting approval from the European Medicines Agency and the US’ Food and Drug Administration.