December 9, 2020
With the typical British “stiff upper lip,” at 6:31 a.m. local time on Tuesday, December 8, Margaret Keenan, 90, of Coventry, England, rolled up the sleeve of her Merry Christmas tee-shirt to receive the first shot worldwide of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
Her tranquil and composed image quickly became a symbol of vaccine acceptance—and of the global effort to end a pandemic that already has killed 1.5 million people globally.
According to a report by The New York Times, Britain has become the first nation to begin a mass inoculation campaign using a clinically authorized, fully tested vaccine— kicking off an international effort to fight COVID-19. Doctors, nurses, certain people aged 80 or over, and nursing home workers will be among the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Keenan, adding, “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.”
British regulators leapt ahead of their American counterparts last week to authorize a coronavirus vaccine—upsetting the White House and setting off a spirited debate about whether Britain had moved too hastily, or if the United States was wasting valuable time as the virus was killing about 1,500 Americans a day.
President Trump planned on Tuesday to issue an executive order proclaiming that other nations will not get U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated—a directive that appeared to have no teeth, but nevertheless was indicative of the heated race to secure shipments of doses.
For the people receiving vaccinations in Britain, among them doctors and nurses who have fortified the country’s National Health Service this year, the shots were an early glimpse at post-pandemic life.
Besides Ms. Keenan, none attracted as much attention as William Shakespeare, who was second in line for a shot in Coventry and who, the National Health Service confirmed, really is named William Shakespeare.
Research contact: @nytimes