Filipino nurse in UK gives world’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine

A Filipino nurse in the UK administered the world’s first approved and fully tested COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, December 8, in what she described as a “historic day” showing “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Filipino nurse May Parsons delivered Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan at a local hospital in Coventry. Keenan is the first person in world to get the vaccine, approved just a week ago in Britain

“I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day,” Parsons said in a statement released by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). “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 happy it’s happened and now I’ve done it and hopefully more people come along and do as I did, you know?” Keenan told CNN

The moment watched by the world was not lost on Parsons, who has worked with the NHS for 24 years. 

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she encouraged the public to avail of the vaccine.

"It's important that we're making this as popular as can be for everyone to take," Parsons said.

The UK is the first country in the world to mount a mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, with the elderly, vulnerable, and front line health workers among the first in line to receive the shot in the program. 

The historic moment, which came after an unprecedented worldwide sprint to produce a safe and effective vaccine, marked a milestone in the pandemic that has so far killed over 1.5 million people and sickened over 67 million. 

British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce described Keenan’s experience as a “fantastic moment” as he recognized Parson's service at the NHS. 

“A fantastic moment! And great to see that the vaccine is administered by Nurse May Parsons from the Philippines – one of the many thousands of Filipino healthcare workers making such an enormous contribution to the NHS,” Pruce tweeted. 

UK State Minister Nigel Adams said the country was “proud” to have dedicated health workers like Parsons.

Parsons is among the nearly 20,000 Filipinos who make up the staff of the NHS, UK's healthcare system. Filipinos rank third following British and Indian staff. 

Filipino nurses have been recognized worldwide for their contribution to foreign health systems across Europe, the Middle East, and North America, among others.

While many have been hailed for their dedication, their service on the front lines also means Filipino health workers have been one of the hardest-hit groups, suffering from high death rates during the pandemic. 

For decades, Filipino nurses have also opted to work abroad due to low wages and poor working conditions in the country. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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