The grandmother who made history when she got the Pfizer COVID jab exactly a year ago has urged anyone still to get vaccinated to “just do it” and help save lives.
Margaret Keenan, 91, got the jab at Coventry’s University Hospital and became the first person in the world to get the vaccine outside of a trial.
Speaking on the one-year anniversary, she said: “Please, please do have the jab because it’ll save your life and the life of your friends and family – and the NHS as well of course…
“Don’t think about it – just go and have it done, you know – just do it. It doesn’t take long to have it done – you can either book in or walk-in centres do it – go and have it done.”
Since her first jab, more than 118 million doses have been administered in the UK.
Mrs Keenan said she has enjoyed her experience of making vaccine history – but admitted she “didn’t think it was going to be so big at the time”.
“I can’t believe it now what happened at the time, because I was quite ill,” she said.
“The National Health Service really looked after me. I’m so happy – I’m so happy I got the jab – and it’s been a wonderful year really…”
Mrs Keenan, who is 92 next week, also revealed that people tell her she inspired them to get vaccinated.
“People meet me in the street and say ‘thank God for you because I wasn’t going to have this jab’,” she said.
“And it’s lovely to hear that – even young people have spoken to me and it makes me feel good.”
The nurse who gave her the jab, May Parsons, said she is “deeply grateful” that the pair could be a “beacon of hope” in kicking off the vaccine programme – after the jab was developed with unprecedented speed.
“At that point in time [the pandemic] was really dire,” she admitted.
Ms Parsons said it was not too late for people to get vaccinated, revealing that the COVID patients in her ward now who are “really really poorly” are “young and fit and unvaccinated”.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s chief executive, said: “Maggie’s jab marked the launch of the world’s first national vaccination programme – watched around the globe it was a moment of hope after months of fear.”
“The rollout would not have been as successful as it has been without the help of thousands of volunteers who have given over one million hours to deliver vaccines and help us save thousands of lives,” added the NHS boss.
With the booster programme being ramped up to try to protect against the Omicron variant, another 10,000 people are now needed.
“If you are interested in applying, or if you want to volunteer, search ‘NHS vaccine team’ to find out how you can help us,” said Ms Pritchard.
COVID boosters may well become a regular event – a Pfizer boss has said people will probably need them “for a number of years to come”.
Ben Osborn, country manager for the pharmaceutical firm in the UK, said it is still unknown whether they will be required every six months or annually.