90-year-old Margaret Keenan of the United Kingdom became the first person to receive an initial dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday — a major landmark and something that officials are calling a "turning point" in the pandemic.
Keenan, a retired store clerk, was the first in line at University Hospital in Coventry, England, to receive her first dose of a vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech. She 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," she said, according to a statement released by the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
According to CNN, the first shot was administered by nurse May Parsons.
"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," Parsons said, according to CNN.
England was the first Western country to approve Pfizer's vaccine for emergency use. The U.S. and the European Union are expected to grant their approval to the Pfizer vaccine in the coming days.
Russia was the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine in August. However, the vaccine, dubbed "Sputnik V," was only tested on a few dozen people, and its rollout has been marked by public distrust and production issues.
Pfizer's vaccine requires two shots, which need to be taken 28 days apart, which means Keenan, Shakespeare, and all others injected on Tuesday will need to return for another shot next month to reach full inoculation.
The U.S. is also expected to approve a vaccine candidate made by Moderna in the coming days as well. U.S. health officials have said they hope to distribute initial doses of the vaccine to 20 million people across the country by the month's end.
As in England, initial doses of COVID-19 in the U.S. are being reserved for older people in long-term care facilities healthcare workers. U.S. health officials believe vaccines will be widely available in the spring.