LIVE

Rae Whitehead, 79, died on Dec. 1, just days after testing positive for COVID-19 at her nursing home

By Maria Pasquini
December 11, 2020 12:28 PM
Advertisement
Edward and Rae Whitehead
Edward and Rae Whitehead
| Credit: Edward Whitehead/PA

Although Edward Whitehead became one of the first people in the world to receive the coronavirus vaccine, it was not made available quickly enough to save his wife.

Rae Whitehead, 79, died on Dec. 1, just days after testing positive for COVID-19 at her nursing home, according to The Guardian. One week later, as the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) began administering vaccines, Edward received his shot at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

“My father and I are deeply saddened that, had we not put my mother in a nursing home … she would maybe be alive today and could have had the vaccine,” their son, Dr. David Whitehead, told PA news agency, according to the outlet.

It's unclear if Rae Whitehead suffered from any pre-existing medical conditions prior to contracting the virus. People ages 65 and older are at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, as are people with underlying medical conditions, including heart conditions, obesity, diabetes, liver disease and chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

David, a consultant ENT surgeon, went on to share that while he was heartbroken over his mother's death, he felt “potential relief” that his father had received the vaccine.

“I feel quite proud that we’ve managed to approve it, a vaccine from a trial, so quickly,” he added. “It’s a great day and I think it will probably protect a great deal of people.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Margaret Keenan became the first person in the U.K. to receive the vaccine.

"I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19," said the retired shop clerk, who will turn 91 next week, 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,” she added.

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.

"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."

RELATED VIDEO: Couple Arrested After Boarding Flight to Hawaii Despite Testing Positive for COVID-19: Authorities

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.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.