Written by Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) – Margaret Kennan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Northern Ireland, has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine out of a trial as Britain begins vaccinating its own population.
Keenan, who got up early, received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at her local hospital in Coventry, central England, Tuesday morning at 0631 GMT, a week before she turned 91.
A video clip showed Kenan being pushed in a wheelchair out of the ward while nursing staff in protective gear were lining the hallway to applaud and cheer, echoing animated videos released during the year when COVID-19 survivors left hospital.
Britain is the first Western country to start immunizing its general population in what was described as a crucial turning point in defeating the Corona virus.
“I feel very privileged to be the first person to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Kennan, as she received the shot from a nurse from the Philippines in front of a cameraman and TV crew.
“It’s the best early birthday gift I wish I had because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after I’ve been alone for most of the year.”
Kenan, known as Maggie to her friends, is a former jewelry store assistant who retired only four years ago. She has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.
Video footage showed that she was wearing a light blue mask and a gray cardigan with a blue shirt with a penguin in the snow and a “Happy Birthday” message when she was shot in the left arm by nurse May Parsons.
“We will overcome this together.”
Parsons, one of several thousand people from around the world working for the British National Health Service (NHS), where she has worked for 24 years, said the past few months have been tough, but there was now a light at the end of the tunnel.
Britain is the European country worst affected by COVID-19, with more than 61,000 deaths. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to turn the tide against the disease by introducing the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine ahead of the United States or the European Union.
Mass vaccination will fuel hope that the world may turn into a turning point in the war against a pandemic that has devastated economies and killed more than 1.5 million, although extremely cold storage and tough logistics will limit its use for now.
“Thanks to our NHS, to all the scientists who worked hard to develop this vaccine, to all volunteers – and to everyone who followed the rules to protect others,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“We will overcome this together.”
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Stephen Boyce, the medical director of the National Health Service England, said they found watching the launch of the vaccine program very emotional.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said that the second patient who received the vaccine in Britain was a man named William Shakespeare from Warwickshire.
Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech shot. Since each person needs two doses, this is enough to vaccinate 20 million people in a country of 67 million people.
Around 800,000 doses are expected to be provided during the first week, with care homes and caregivers, those over the age of 80 and some health services workers given the highest priority.
(Editing by Estelle Sherwin, Jay Faulconbridge and Gareth Jones)
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