Dec. 8, 2020 -- A British grandmother made history Tuesday morning by becoming the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine as part of a mass vaccination program.
Margaret Keenan, 90, was injected with the vaccine at 6:31 GMT Tuesday (1:31 a.m. ET) at University Hospital, Coventry, the BBC reported. William Shakespeare, 81, was the second person to get the vaccine.
Tuesday was declared “V-Day” as the United Kingdom launched its COVID-19 vaccination program -- their first to vaccinate the public outside clinical trials.
"I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19," said Keenan, who turns 91 next week. "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.
"My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too," she said.
The Telegraph said she’s a retired jewelry shop assistant with a daughter, a son, and four grandchildren.
Stephen Powis, medical director of the National Health Service, was on hand to witness the historic first injection.
"We couldn't hug her but we could clap, and everybody did so in the room,” he said, according to the BBC.
The government expects 800,000 people to be injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in coming weeks and up to 4 million by the end of the month, the BBC said.
People over 80 and health care workers will be the first to receive the vaccine.
The U.K. rolled out the vaccine less than a week after the national medical regulator authorized use of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.K. has reported more than 61,500 COVID-related deaths and 1.7 million confirmed COVID cases, the fifth-highest and seventh-highest tallies in the world, respectively. The nation just emerged from a lockdown but still has restrictions on bars, restaurants, and the size of groups.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke to the House of Commons later Tuesday and said the National Health Service faces a "Herculean task" in distributing the vaccine, the Telegraph said.
"This week we will vaccinate from hospitals across the U.K. From next week we'll expand deployment to start vaccinations by GPs and we'll vaccinate in care homes by Christmas,” he said. “As more vaccines come on stream in the new year we will open vaccination centres in larger venues like sports stadia and conference halls.”
In the United States, the FDA is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to approve the Pfizer vaccine. If it does, the vaccine could be distributed to health care workers and elderly nursing home patients within days. A similar decision is expected next week on the Moderna vaccine.