A 90-year-old woman from Northern Ireland has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine outside trial conditions – marking the start of the UK’s mass vaccination programme.
Margaret Keenan, from Enniskillen, said she felt “so privileged” to receive the jab at University Hospital, Coventry.
Hubs in the UK will vaccinate over-80s and some health and care staff.
The programme aims to protect the most vulnerable and return life to normal.
Matron May Parsons administered Ms Keenan’s vaccine at at 06:30 GMT.
Ms 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.”
“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.”
The UK will be the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week . Vaccination will not be compulsory.
Vaccinations will be given at dozens of hospital hubs from today – called “V-Day” by Health Secretary Matt Hancock – with people aged 80 and over and care home workers among the first to receive the jab.
Nurse Ms Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient.
She added: “The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mrs Parsons, originally from the Philippines, has worked in the NHS for the last 24 years and been at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire since 2003.
The government has secured 40 million doses of the vaccine, which needs to be refrigerated at -70C (-94F). Studies have shown the Pfizer/BioNTech jab is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 and works in all age groups.