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Margaret Keenan, who will turn 91 next week, says the vaccine is "the best early birthday present I could wish for"

By Jen Juneau
December 08, 2020 08:34 AM
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Margaret Keenan, May Parsons
Margaret Keenan receives the first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in England
| Credit: JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty

Margaret Keenan has become the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The former shop clerk, who will celebrate her 91st birthday next week, was given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at 6:31 a.m. local time on Tuesday, at University Hospital Coventry in England.

One photo from Keenan's visit shows her receiving the shot, while a second sees her being pushed in a wheelchair down a hospital hallway while medical staff applauds her. Keenan wore a blue face mask for the occasion, as well as a sweet blue shirt that read "Merry Christmas" and featured a penguin in a Santa hat.

"I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19," she said, according to the Associated Press. "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."

CNN reports that Keenan told the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) that the experience of receiving the vaccine was "wonderful" and she "wasn't nervous" to do so, adding that it's "for a good cause" — to help in the fight against "a terrible, terrible disease."

"I would say go for it," she advised others who are considering getting the vaccine and meet eligibility requirements. "If I can do it, well, so can you."

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Margaret Keenan
Margaret Keenan receives the COVID-19 vaccine
| Credit: Jacob King - Pool/Getty

The U.K. became the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine last Wednesday when the nation's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted a temporary authorization for emergency use to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The same vaccine has been submitted for emergency approval by the FDA in the United States and is still under review.

BBC News reported Thursday that Matt Hancock, U.K. health secretary, said an initial 800,000 doses would be made available this week, with nursing home residents and staff given priority for receiving the vaccine.

"Today's emergency use authorization in the U.K. marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.," Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in a press release.

"As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world," added Bourla. "With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic."

Vaccine Covid-19
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
| Credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

RELATED VIDEO: Pfizer Says Early Study Shows Its Potential COVID Vaccine Is 90 Percent Effective

Pfizer announced last month that its phase-three study results proved the vaccine is 95 percent effective with "no serious safety concerns observed" in the trial participants. Now, the company hopes to get their vaccine — which requires two shots, given three weeks apart — approved in the U.S. and have initial doses available for distribution before the end of the year.

Along with their German partner BioNTech, Pfizer went on to specify that they could have 50 million doses available this year, and 1.3 billion in 2021.

The trials observed more than 43,000 participants, and the "only Grade 3 adverse event greater than 2 percent in frequency was fatigue at 3.8 percent and headache at 2.0 percent." Pfizer added the vaccine was "well tolerated across all populations."

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