Maggie is among the first set of people contacted in advance by the British National Health Service for the shot, based on a pre-determined health risk criterion.

90-year-old Margaret sitting in a chair with nurse May Parsons receiving Pfizers COVID-19 vaccine Photo: Matt Hancock/Twitter
Coronavirus Vaccine Tuesday, December 08, 2020 - 14:20

By Aditi Khanna

The UK kicked off its biggest-ever vaccine campaign in history on Tuesday, and 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab against COVID-19. At 6:31 am GMT, early riser Maggie was given the life-saving jab by nurse May Parsons at her local hospital in Coventry to mark what the National Health Service (NHS) has dubbed a "landmark moment" on V-Day or Vaccine Day in the fight against the deadly virus.

"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," said Maggie, who turns 91 next week.

The former jewellery shop assistant, who retired four years ago, has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren and is looking forward to being able to go out again once she receives the top-up booster dose 21 days later.

"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," 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," said nurse Parsons.

Maggie is among the first set of people contacted in advance by the NHS for the jab based on a pre-determined health risk criterion and will include 87-year-old British Indian grandfather of nine Hari Shukla, who will get his first dose at a hospital in Newcastle.

"I'm so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help," said Dr Shukla, a race relations campaigner.

They have been picked based on the criteria set by the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation phased rollout based on those at the highest risk of death from the deadly virus.

People aged 80 and over as well as care home workers will be first to receive the jab this week, along with NHS workers who are at higher risk among the first to receive the "life-saving jab".

"Today marks a huge step forward in the UK's fight against coronavirus, as we begin delivering the vaccine to the first patients across the whole country. I am immensely proud of the scientists who developed the vaccine, members of the public who took part in trials, and the NHS who have worked tirelessly to prepare for rollout, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

However, the UK prime minister struck a note of caution to say that mass vaccination will take time, and therefore there was a need to remain "clear-eyed" about the challenges that remain.

"As the programme ramps up in the weeks and months ahead, it is as important as ever to keep to the COVID Winter plan following the rules in your area and remember the basics of hands, face and space," he said.

Since the Pfizer vaccine got the green light from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week, the NHS said.

Its workers have been working around the clock to manage the huge scale logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine. Over the weekend, hospitals have begun inviting over 80s in for a jab and work with care home providers to book their staff into vaccination clinics.

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