Northern Ireland news

Grandmother Margaret Keenan (91) who had Pfizer jab first urges people to get second Covid vaccination

Enniskillen pensioner, Margaret Keenan (90) was the first person in the UK to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry. Picture by Jacob King/PA Wire
Richard Vernalls, PA

A 91-year-old grandmother who became the first person in the world to have the Pfizer vaccine as part of the mass vaccination rollout has praised “incredible” NHS staff and urged people to get their second dose.

The face of Margaret Keenan – known as Maggie – made news around the world in December last year after she was given the coronavirus jab at University Hospital Coventry.

In a Zoom call with NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, the grandmother of four was asked what she would say to anyone feeling hesitant about getting a second jab.

Mrs Keenan replied: “I would be saying ‘go and get it, and get it now’.

“Because it (would be) the best thing they’ve ever done, really. (It’s) the best thing I ever did.

“I hope everybody comes forward.

“Some people are just afraid of injections but there’s nothing to it.

“You don’t feel anything.”

Asked about how she felt being the first to have the jab, she added: “I feel really honoured to have it done and to be the first and set the ball rolling.”

Mrs Keenan said that, having since had her second dose, she was now most looking forward to “a little holiday”, adding with a laugh “I’m not greedy!”

The nonagenarian, who only retired from her job working in a jeweller’s four years ago, also praised NHS doctors and nurses for their work during the rollout.

She said: “They’re incredible, I cannot find words to say … they are really incredible for what they’ve done.

“I think the NHS has achieved an enormous lot by doing the work they do.

“It is such a wonderful institution.”

Mrs Keenan, who has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years but is originally from Enniskillen, received the Zoom earlier this week, where she was reunited with matron May Parsons.

It was Ms Parsons, matron for respiratory medicine at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, who administered Mrs Keenan’s historic first jab on December 8 2020.

Ms Parsons, who has worked for the NHS for almost 20 years since moving from the Philippines, said: “The dawn is coming, we’re going to be coming out of this.

“I cannot be more excited and I can’t be more positive about.

“We’re coming out of this pandemic, stronger.”

She added a “massive thank you” to her NHS colleagues, for their “compassion”, “bravery and courage” throughout the last year.

Thanking the pair on the call, Sir Simon said: “Maggie, you’ve been an inspiration.

“May, you’ve set the whole of the health service on the path towards this hugely successful vaccine rollout.”

Separately, the NHS boss said: “We’re seeing patients coming forward in record numbers for their Oxford AstraZeneca second doses.

“People are voting with their feet, showing continuing strong public support for the NHS Covid vaccination campaign which has already saved over 10,000 lives.”

The NHS vaccine programme, the biggest in health service history and the most rapid rollout in Europe, is continuing to ramp up second doses for the most vulnerable.

Latest statistics from the Department of Health show that 1,174,847 vaccines have been administered in the north. Of these, 876,290 have been first doses and 298,557 were second doses.

Covid vaccines have so far been rolled out to people aged 35 and over and anyone eligible can book one here.

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