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Maggie Keenan, who made history when she became the first person in the world to receive an approved COVID-19 jab in December, has praised the hard work of “incredible” NHS staff in delivering the vaccination programme, during a Zoom call with NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.
On the call the 91-year-old grandmother of four thanked NHS staff and encouraged everyone to have their second doses of vaccine, as she was reunited with matron May Parsons, who delivered her first vaccine.
During a recent visit to a Vaccination Centre, Sir Simon Stevens echoed Maggie’s thanks to NHS staff and volunteers, for their success in protecting those most at risk, and urged everyone to take up their second dose.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “We’re seeing patients coming forward in record numbers for their Oxford Astra/Zeneca second doses. People are voting with their feet, showing continuing strong public support for the NHS COVID vaccination campaign which has already saved over 10,000 lives.”
Maggie’s praise comes as the NHS vaccine programme, the biggest in health service history and fastest in Europe, continues to ramp up second doses for the most vulnerable patients.
The NHS vaccination programme has now protected around 28 million people in England with at least one jab and delivered more than nine million second doses.
Talking to the NHS chief over Zoom, Maggie said she felt honoured to be the first in the world to be protected against the virus and to “set the ball rolling”, as she urged others to come forward to get their jab when they are called.
Reflecting on the efforts of NHS staff in rolling out the vaccine programme, she said: “They are incredible for what they have done – I think the NHS has achieved an enormous lot by doing the work they do, such a wonderful institution.”
Maggie, a former jewellery shop owner who only retired four years ago, made history when she received the first Pfizer jab outside of a clinical trial at University Hospital, Coventry on December 8.
She is now fully vaccinated, having received her second dose, and says she is looking forward to “a little holiday.”
When asked by Sir Simon, Maggie urged others to ensure they receive the second dose to ensure they receive maximum protection, saying: “I’m telling everyone to go and get it because it really is the best thing I’ve ever done. I hope everyone comes forward.
“There’s nothing to it, you don’t even feel anything.
“I just feel really honoured to have had it done, to have been the first and to have got the ball rolling.”
May Parsons, who is currently Modern Matron for Respiratory Medicine at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, also spoke of her pride at delivering the first jab in December last year.
May said: “Vaccinating Maggie was a little spark of light the midst of the darkness, and now I feel like the dawn is coming. It’s almost unbelievable that we’ve managed to roll out the vaccine so successfully.”
May, who has worked for the NHS for almost 20 years since moving from the Philippines, added: “I’m really grateful to all my colleagues for the bravery and courage that they’ve shown throughout this pandemic, which has helped us care for our people and care for our patients like Maggie.”
Sir Simon ended the call by saying: “Maggie, you’ve been an inspiration. May, you’ve set the whole of the health service on the path towards this hugely successful vaccination rollout. Thank you both so much.”
During April, the NHS has been focusing on second doses, but appointments are still available for those in the initial priority groups who have not yet been protected.
People who had their first jab at a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led service should already have a date for their second while those jabbed by a GP will be called back.
Anyone aged 45 and over can still arrange their jab, as well as people who are clinically vulnerable or a health and care worker, who should contact their GP for an appointment.
The NHS is also inviting those eligible for a jab by letter and text, with some GPs also calling un-vaccinated patients personally to encourage uptake.
Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are delivering the life-saving jab at more than 1,600 sites ranging from cathedrals, mosques and temples to racecourses, sports stadiums, cinemas and museums, with more than 20 offering the Moderna jab over the last week.