A 90-year-old grandmother who became the first person to have the Pfizer jab as a mass vaccination gets under way has said she hopes others will “do what I did”.
Margaret Keenan, who is marking her 91st birthday on Tuesday next week, said: “Hopefully it’ll help other people come along and do what I did, and try and do the best to get rid of this terrible thing.”
Speaking from the vaccination clinic at University Hospital Coventry on Tuesday, Mrs Keenan – known as Maggie – added: “To tell you the truth I got this opportunity of doing it, and I was in hospital.
“It was a great opportunity,” added Mrs Keenan, who only retired from her job in a jewellers four years ago.
“I know that one or two people on my ward are going to wait and have it done by the doctor, but because it was available for me today (I did it).
“I don’t mind the (media) attention, it doesn’t bother me.
“I’m just happy to have it done.”
The second person to have the injection was 81-year-old William “Bill” Shakespeare, an in-patient on the hospital’s frailty wards from Coventry who, appropriately, is local to his namesake’s county of birth, Warwickshire.
Mrs Keenan, who is originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, but has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years, described the moment she was vaccinated, in a world-first, at 6.31am.
“It was fine – I wasn’t nervous at all,” said the mother-of-two.
Mrs Keenan said she was looking forward to a “little rest” before she was due to be discharged, as early as Wednesday.
She is now planning a small family gathering for Christmas and her birthday next week, after last year’s landmark 90th festivities.
Earlier, talking to the PA news agency while waiting for her injection from nurse May Parsons, she quipped she was hoping for a trip to “Barbados”.
She added: “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.”
Mrs Keenan was among up to 100 people set to have the jab, which arrived in an insulated container just minutes before the inoculation, and had to be carefully handled according to strict clinical controls.
Asked how she felt about being first in line for the jab, she said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” adding she initially thought staff were having her on.
The grandmother-of-four said she “thought it was a joke to start with” and said: “I couldn’t believe it.
“I’m happy it’s happened and now I’ve done it.
“At the moment I don’t know how I feel, just so strange and so wonderful really,” she added.
“This is for a good cause and I’m so pleased I had it done.”
Mrs Keenan said she “never” thought she would be the first person having the vaccine as part of the national rollout.
“This is a terrible disease so we do want rid of it, so anything that helps is a bonus, isn’t it, really?” she said.
She said to those who might be having second thoughts about getting vaccinated: “I say go for it, because it’s free and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened.
“Go for it.
“If I can do it; well, so can you,” she said.
Although she knew of nobody personally who had been affected, Mrs Keenan said she and her family had “stuck by the rules and we’ve got our own little bubble now”.
Commenting on the effect of the global pandemic, she said: “(It’s) terrible what it’s done to people, it’s so sudden and so devastating to see what they’re going through, really.”
She was later wheeled back to her ward, where nursing staff formed a guard of honour, cheering and applauding Mrs Keenan, who was visibly emotional at the gesture.
Mrs Keenan said: “I am looking forward to Christmas.
“I didn’t think I’d be getting home so soon from hospital.
“I’m spending Christmas with four of my family members and then we’ll see what happens in the new year, but I’m looking forward to Christmas – yes I am.”
After the vaccination, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis tweeted: “Fantastic to see Enniskillen woman, Margaret, receive the first vaccine this morning!
“The rollout starts today in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the country – supplied by the U.K. Government & administered by our brilliant NHS. #VDay.”
Mr Shakespeare, the second person to receive the vaccine, said he was “pleased” to be given the jab.
He added: “I need to say, the staff at this hospital are wonderful.”