May Parsons, the nurse who delivered the first COVID-19 vaccination in the world, will join the NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard, when the health service is awarded the George Cross next week.
May, who is a Modern Matron for Respiratory Services at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust, administered the first vaccine outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan on 8 December 2020.
Since then, the NHS in England has delivered over 125 million vaccinations, including 33 million boosters and 4.2 million spring boosters – saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
The George Cross is set to be awarded at Windsor Castle on Tuesday 12 July by Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
Amanda Pritchard and May Parsons will attend on behalf of the 1.5 million staff working for the NHS in England.
The George Cross recognises the “courage, compassion and dedication” of staff during the pandemic and their service to the public for the last 74 years – exactly one week after the NHS’s birthday.
NHS staff have so far cared for more than 770,000 patients with COVID in hospital as well as many more in the community alongside providing urgent and routine care for millions of people.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “It is an honour to be attending the presentation of the George Cross on behalf of our incredible NHS staff alongside May.
“May is one of hundreds of thousands of our fantastic members of staff that have served the country with compassion and dedication throughout the pandemic and over the last 74 years.
“The world watched when May administered the first ever COVID vaccine outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan in Coventry a year and a half ago, kicking off the largest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history.
“We would not be where we are today without the efforts of May and countless others who went above and beyond to roll out the vaccine at speed and precision.
“I am delighted that May will join me for this momentous occasion – it will be another day for the history books for the NHS.”
May Parsons said: “I am humbled and honoured to be representing the NHS with Amanda when we are awarded the George Cross – it takes hundreds of thousands of us to make the NHS what it is today and I am so grateful to be part of and attending this prestigious event on behalf of such a wonderful team of people – from nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants to many, many others.
“Vaccinating Maggie with the first approved COVID-19 vaccine was a wonderful moment that I am so proud of – but that was only the beginning.
“That moment kickstarted the biggest and fastest vaccination programme in our history. It prevented hospital admissions, it got the country back to normal and it saved lives.
“All of the staff in hospitals and our communities went above and beyond during the pandemic to look after patients despite the risks the virus posed to themselves, across health and care, staff sacrificed so much to look after those in need.
“The George Cross is a fitting tribute to them all.”
It is just the third time since the George Cross award was instituted in 1940 by King George VI that it has been awarded to a collective group of people.
It is granted in recognition of “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.
Chief executives and frontline workers from the other devolved nations will also be present to receive their award on behalf of their respective countries.