Coronavirus vaccine UK: what we mustn’t forget as we celebrate the first Covid-19 vaccinations

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Lauren Geall
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Margaret Keenan, the first person to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in the UK, is applauded by health workers at Coventry Hospital.

Watching nurse May Parsons administer the first approved Covid-19 vaccine in the UK to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan marks a turning point in the fight against coronavirus – but we mustn’t forget the danger we’re still facing, writes Stylist’s Lauren Geall.   

They’ve only gone and done it, folks. After months of waiting for news of the latest developments and clinging on to any sliver of hope, the first approved Covid-19 vaccine has been administered in the UK – to a 90-year-old woman called Margaret Keenan.

If you’ve gone anywhere near the internet this morning, chances are you’ve seen the video of Keenan receiving her vaccination. Dressed in a cheerful blue T-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon penguin and the words “Merry Christmas”, the former jewellery shop assistant was all smiles (from behind a mask, of course) as nurse May Parsons administered the vaccine.

Describing the jab as “the best early birthday present” ahead of her 91st birthday next week, Keenan said she felt privileged to be the first person in the UK to receive the vaccine and said she was looking forward to “spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year”. 

Like most people, I felt a sense of relief to see the first patient be given the dose of a vaccine we’ve been dreaming of since March last year. It feels strange to even say it, but that video of Keenan receiving her vaccine will go down in history – and being alive to witness that monumental moment feels like a real gift after such a depressing year.

It was also pretty incredible to see Parsons, a Filipino-British woman who has worked in the NHS for 17 years, be given so much recognition for her role in administering the first vaccine – especially when the pandemic has claimed a disproportionate number of lives among Filipino health and care workers in the UK. 

Personally, there’s also a sense of excitement that comes with the whole thing, too. Like many young people, I know it’ll be a while until I’m able to receive the vaccine, but the idea that it’s coming – that, somewhere down the line, I’ll be able to live my life without fear of spreading the virus to a vulnerable family member and hug my friends without a second thought – feels, for want of a better word, incredible.

For the first time in a while, I also feel confident in my ability to look forward to 2021. Sure, we may not know exactly when things might get back to ‘normal’ (and there’s always the fear that the immunity built by the vaccine may subside after a period of time), but it’s reassuring to know that we have a path to follow. After a year of such uncertainty, this vaccine may finally mark the return of some stability. 

However, despite all this joy and excitement, there was another, less positive, emotion which came over me as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline this morning – fear. Because while it’s great to see so many people happy as a result of the news, I can’t help but feel a little nervous that people are going to forget about the danger that continues to dominate our lives.

Yes, the vaccine marks a turning point in the fight against Covid-19, but today’s news does not mark the end of this fight. The pandemic is still very much present – and to act like it’s “all over” just because a couple hundred people have received the vaccine is incredibly dangerous. 

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I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer after such a jubilant morning (I, for one, certainly have an extra spring in my step today), but I also know that, until the majority of vulnerable and elderly people receive the vaccine, we must continue to follow the rules and act with caution, as we have throughout 2020.

To receive such good news after such a terrible year (especially in the run-up to Christmas) is indescribably brilliant, but we mustn’t let our excitement and joy over the beginning of the vaccine rollout distract us from the main task at hand for the time being – protecting those we love. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.