Dec 09, 2020

Meet the nurse who administered the first COVID-19 vaccination


A matron with 24 years’ experience administered the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world overnight when she gave 90-year-old Margaret Keenan the much-anticipated jab.

May Parsons administered the vaccine 6.31am British time in Coventry, marking the beginning of one of the largest vaccination efforts ever undertaken.


Parsons said, “It’s a huge honour to be the first person in the country to deliver a Covid-19 jab to a patient, I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day,” it was reported in the Evening Standard.

“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I’m so proud”

Parsons is originally from the Philippines, and has worked in Britain’s health service for the last 24 years. 

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Parsons said, “The fact that we’re able to offer the first vaccine today, it’s a positive historical event and I’m so proud to be able to contribute to that positive step towards stopping this pandemic.”

Parsons said she felt she had the skills and experience to play such an important role in combatting the pandemic. 

“I have had a lot of experience in terms of injections and flu jabs; I’ve given a couple hundred a few months ago. So I’ve had a lot of practice in the 20 year career I have.

“It’s just making sure that I follow the policy, do all the right things for the patient, make sure that she’s safe and comfortable,” she said.

Parsons also told Good Morning Britain she was proud to be able to tell Filipinos all around the world that “we can make a difference and with our positive contributions to humanity.”

“I think it’s a historical event for Filipinos all across the globe and making sure we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. I’m very proud to say that I’m a Filipino British today making history,” she said.

Keenan, who is known as ‘Maggie’, has been in isolation for most of the year. She will be celebrating Christmas with a small family ‘bubble’, and will return for her ‘booster job’ in 21 days.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” the Evening Standard reported.

Keenan is turning 91 next week and said the vaccination was “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.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he felt quite “emotional” watching the historic event.

On Sky News he said, “I’m feeling quite emotional actually watching those pictures. 

“It has been such a tough year for so many people and finally we have our way through it – our light at the end of the tunnel as so many people are saying.”

The United Kingdom is rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination, which requires two injections at least 21 days apart. The vaccine has to be stored at -70C and thawed before use.

Are we ready to roll out the vaccine in Australia?

Some months ago, the World Health Organisation asked all 188 member countries to begin planning for the vaccine rollout, Mary-Louise McLaws, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of New South Wales and advisor to the WHO, told HelloCare.

“It’s not just receiving the doses and storing them somewhere cold, it’s much more than that,” she said.

Firstly, it’s vital to have the cooperation of the public to ensure people aren’t “hesitant” to take the vaccine. It’s also key that people have a good experience with the vaccine so that they spread the word to their friends and family.

Making sure everyone has the skills needed will also be vital. Because the vaccine has to be stored at such low temperatures, bringing it out for “mass vaccine days” and keeping it “efficacious” and not “contaminated” will require specialist training, preparation and skills.

Also training healthcare workers how to administer the “multi-dose vial” will be key.

“It’s not as simple as poking a needle through a rubber bunger and drawing up the vaccine,” McLaws observed. 

Surveillance will also be necessary, making sure that people receive the right vaccine for their second dose, following up adverse events, and noting how many come back for their second dose.

Vaccine a change to “honour and respect” those who put lives at risk

The Australian government has ordered 10 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, and also has orders in place for Novavax and Moderna, which are both in Phase 3 trials.

All aged care workers should receive the vaccine, McLaws told HollCare, including cooks and cleaners and the like, as well as care staff. 

“Every single person that works in a residential aged care facility is part of the lives and ‘germ bubble’ of the residents, because they are living in a shared home. The cooks, the cleaners, the hands on care staff, they all work within this germ bubble,” she said.

“And they all have the likelihood of coming into contact with the frail and elderly.”

Aged care homes are also often in “older premises”, and it can be difficult to keep residents separate.

“I would like to see honour and respect given to everybody who places their lives at risk,” McLaws said.

Security will be needed, not only to prevent hackers, but also of electricity supply to avoid brownouts.

Rolling out the vaccine in regional areas, such as Dubbo, Orange and the Shoalhaven, will be more ”problematic” than in the cities, in part because they may not have the ability to keep the vaccine the low temperatures required.

Refrigerated trucks may have to transport the vaccine to regional hubs, McLaws predicted, likening the logistics needed to a “war effort”.

“It’s a very big task,” McLaws conceded.

Image: scyther5, iStock.

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