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First person to get Covid vaccination urges more to join her on anniversary

Margaret Keenan at University Hospital Coventry (Jacob King/PA).

Margaret Keenan, who a year ago became the first person to have a Covid jab, has urged people to get a vaccination.

The 91-year-old said: “The best Christmas present I could have is being in good health and having had the jab and feeling free from this horrible virus.”

The grandmother, who has also already also had her booster and flu jabs, described being a global name as “wonderful”.

Margaret – known as Maggie – was speaking at University Hospital Coventry, the place where a year ago, to the day, on December 8 last year, she became the first person to have a jab as part of a mass vaccine rollout.

Margaret Keenan and Matron May Parsons meet again (Jacob King/PA).

She was joined by the matron who delivered the jab, May Parsons, who warned that unvaccinated young people and pregnant women were “gambling with their lives” by not getting vaccinated – urging them to come forward.

Looking back on the historic jab, Margaret – a mother of two and grandmother of four from Coventry in the West Midlands – said: “It felt great, honestly, I could not believe that things went so well, afterwards.

“At the time I wasn’t feeling good but once I got that jab and things started to be better, so I had a wonderful year – thanks to the NHS.”

Mrs Keenan has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years but is originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

May and Margaret hug as they are reunited a year on (Jacob King/PA).

Speaking about people who had not yet had any jab, she said: “It’s amazing how many people don’t want it

“I don’t know why because they should have it… everybody should have the jab.”

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The nonagenarian, who only retired from her job working in a jeweller’s six years ago, added: “I hope I’m a good example, skipping down the road.”

Posters of Mrs Keenan and Ms Parsons, marking the moment the historic first jab was delivered, are dotted all over the hospital.

The matron, who is in charge of hospital’s Covid wards, came close to tears as she urged unvaccinated people to have a jab, saying too many unprotected people were dying on the wards.

NHS England medical director Stephen Powis, matron May Parsons, Margaret Keenan, chief nursing officer for England Ruth May and CEO of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Andrew Hardy (Jacob King/PA).

She described them as “gambling with their lives”, adding “this could have been avoided if they’d just had the vaccine.”

“I manage Covid wards in this trust.

“And just the amount of Covid patients that we’re getting who are young and fit and healthy, with no medical history, being really terribly ill with Covid.

“Also pregnant and young – unvaccinated.

“Those are the people I would like to reach out to and find out the reasons why they are not having it, because they’re gambling with their lives.

“The amount of people we have seen that are young and pregnant, and aren’t vaccinated, dying for the virus is just not right.”

She added: “The respiratory wards haven’t had any let up in terms of Covid numbers it’s always been Covid in my ward and it’s even more difficult now.

“We are also seeing young people that shouldn’t be there, and also seeing pregnant women that also shouldn’t be there.

“I feel personally, is there anything that I could have done more in terms of pushing the vaccine to these young people or to people who think they’re fit and healthy and the virus isn’t going to touch them?

“It’s a really difficult scene to see people – with their lives in front of them – be devastated by the virus.

“You’ll get a lot of statements from them saying ‘I wish I’d had the vaccine’.

“But by that time, even if I give them 100 vaccines it isn’t going to work.”

She said: “It is having that insight, having to see that day in, day out, it’s a really heartbreaking time.”

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Maggie’s jab marked the launch of the world’s first national vaccination programme – watched around the globe it was a moment of hope after months of fear.”

She added the mass rollout had now delivered nearly 100 million jabs in England, but urged people to apply to become one of 10,000 new staff needed by the NHS to help with the next phase of delivering booster injections.

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