Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Britain, has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine outside of a trial following its rapid clinical approval.
An early riser, Keenan received the jab at her local hospital in Coventry, central England, on Tuesday morning at 06:31 GMT, a week before she turns 91.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Keenan.
“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.”
The UK began rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday, the first Western country to start vaccinating its general population in what was hailed as a decisive watershed in defeating the coronavirus.
In the UK, the occasion has been dubbed “V-Day”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, usually a reserved figure, said he felt “emotional”, adding that 70 hospitals in the country would start the vaccine programme.
The mass inoculation will raise hope that the world may be turning a corner in the fight against a pandemic that has crushed economies and killed more than 1.5 million, although ultra-cold storage and tricky logistics will limit its use for now.
The vaccine could not arrive soon enough for the UK, which has more than 61,000 COVID-19 related deaths – more than any other country has reported in Europe. The UK has more than 1.7 million cases.
The global immunisation programme is expected to gain momentum as more vaccines win approval.
On Saturday, Russia began vaccinating thousands of doctors, teachers and others at dozens of centres in Moscow with its Sputnik V vaccine. That programme is being viewed differently because Russia authorised use of Sputnik V last summer after it was tested in only a few dozen people.