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These people were among the first in the world to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after its U.K. approval. Here’s what they said it was like

First patient in the UK receives COVID-19 vaccine
Workers clap for Margaret Keenan, 90, after she became the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. (Video courtesy of University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire, Photo by Jacob King / POOL / AFP)

For 91-year-old Martin Kenyon, who had his first COVID-19 shot at Guy’s Hospital in London, the worst part of the experience might have been trying to find parking near the hospital and his “nasty lunch.” Otherwise, the vaccine was “painless,” he said.

Kenyon was among the first people in the world to receive the Pfizer vaccine outside of clinical trials on Tuesday, as British health authorities began administering the first shots, marking the start of a nationwide immunization program. The United States could approve the vaccine in the coming days or weeks.

Kenyon said he called the hospital ahead of time and after he was asked a series of questions, he made an appointment. He was put on a list when he arrived (late, he told CNN, as he complained of limited parking), and left to have lunch (which he described as “nasty”) before he was given the first shot.

“It didn’t hurt at all,” he said. “I didn’t know the needle had gone in until it had come out.”


The hospital gave him a small card paper card that records the date of his first and second shots.

Kenyon said he’s looking forward to hugging his granddaughters, and he intends to live a long time so he can enjoy their lives.

“There’s no point in dying now when I have lived this long, is there?” he said.

Margaret Keenan, a grandmother and retired shop assistant who turns 91 next week, said she felt “privileged” to be the first person in the world to receive the vaccine.

From a chair at University Hospital Coventry, Keenan said she hopes it inspires others to take it.

“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,” she said, dressed in a blue Merry Christmas t-shirt.


The vaccine was developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech. The Food and Drug Administration published a report Tuesday that said the vaccine provides strong protection from the virus within 10 days of the first dose.

The first man to receive vaccine, 81-year-old William Shakespeare from Warwickshire, whose name sparked a number of puns on social media, called it “groundbreaking.”

“It could make the difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it?” he said in an interview with Reuters.

The 800,000 doses in the first round of the UK’s vaccination effort will go to some people over the age of 80 and nursing home workers.

The vaccinations offer signs of hope after a nearly 9-month global pandemic that has infected almost 68 million people and killed more than 1.5 million, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.