Covid vaccine: How spritely Margaret Keenan secured her place in history

By any standard Margaret is an extraordinary woman. She’s a healthy, spritely 90-year-old who only gave up working in a jewellery shop four years ago.

Today she became even more remarkable. Margaret Keenan agreed to be the first person in the western world to be vaccinated against coronavirus. She came to University Hospital Coventry for a routine examination and will leave a figure in history.

It was 6.10am when she was wheeled into the make shift vaccination room on the first floor.

Met by the world's media and May Parsons, the nurse who was to administer the jab, she looked unfazed and relaxed.

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan describes how the vaccination rollout 'marks the beginning of the end of this pandemic'

At precisely 06.30am camera shutters clicked furiously and broadcast cameras rolled, us journalists shuffled in as close as we could get to witness this moment, iPhones aloft to record it. The vaccination had taken place, quick, painless and efficient. After the event each correspondent took turns to ask Margaret how she felt.

She felt fine she told us, she wasn’t nervous, she wanted everyone else to follow suit and she was looking forward to speaking to her family to tell them.

There was something hugely comforting in Margaret’s ordinary response, she may have been catapulted into the history books, to become a symbol of medical scientific achievement but she was still Margaret Keenan, who just wants a nice Christmas with her family.

She will indeed get that now, she’s due to leave hospital shortly and will only return in three weeks time for her second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab. As Margaret left the room, was a moment that made me stop and think. Nurses lined the corridor to clap her out. It is what so many staff did for patients leaving intensive care, during the first wave.

The symmetry was so poignant it gave me goose bumps. Other patients were then wheeled in for their shot.

There was William Shakespeare, not 450 years old but 81.

There was 27-year-old Shannon, a care home worker who was desperate for it to ensure she didn’t pass anything to the residents where she works.

150 vaccinations will be done at this hospital today and 400 a day by next week. Once they scale up in the New Year they hope to have a tent in the car park, similar to testing sites we’ve seen throughout the pandemic. Let’s hope that is the case, since the Pfizer jab is so tricky to store that is a big ask.

William Shakespeare was the second person to receive the Covid vaccine. Credit: PA

This morning will go down in history, not just as the day that marked the beginning of the end of this pandemic but also as a milestone in science. To have condensed all the research and development of a vaccine for a completely new virus into ten months, have it work, get it approved, manufactured and into arms is a feat unknown before.

It is an unprecedented moment few will forget and will be written about for years to come. However big though, this moment in time will come and go. The real work on the mass vaccination programme starts now.

  • ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan and Science Editor Tom Clarke on the latest vaccine developments

Will the NHS manage to vaccinate everyone who needs it, quickly? Will they overcome the difficulties in getting doses to care homes and GPs?

Will a continuous supply of the vaccine arrive from Belgium, to ensure there’s enough for a second dose? All these things will be borne out in time and only then will we be able to look back and really say, that was a success.

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