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Margaret Keenan a shining example for the world, says niece of world’s first Covid vaccine recipient

The niece of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine recipient has said she cannot believe it is a whole year since her “auntie Peggy” made history.

Geraldine McHugh told this newspaper her aunt Margaret Keenan, who turns 92 next week, was in rude health and remained a “very independent woman” despite her age.

Coventry-based Margaret, who is originally from Enniskillen, made front-page news around the world when she became the first person, outside clinical trials, to get the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

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Since that moment at Coventry’s University Hospital, she has had a second vaccination and a booster shot.

“She’s in great form. She’s been a great example to the whole world,” Ms McHugh said.

Geraldine, who lives in Tempo, Co Fermanagh, added her aunt had a great attitude towards life and just loved to keep busy.

“My aunt’s as good as anyone at her age could be,” she explained.

“She’s careful and she looks after herself. She still wears a mask and has been a shining example for others over the past year.

“The whole family is so proud of what she’s done. She’s so good-humoured and still loves sewing and dressmaking.”

While the two women stay in regular touch, Geraldine revealed she is “not allowed to phone her aunt during Strictly Come Dancing”.

“No, you daren’t do that,” she added.

“My aunt met the BBC presenter Dan Walker last year and was very interested in how he was getting on in this year’s Strictly.

“We’ll catch up again before Christmas. We’ve always exchanged cards.”


Margaret with niece Geraldine McHugh

Margaret with niece Geraldine McHugh

Margaret with niece Geraldine McHugh

Mrs Keenan still has her Enniskillen accent despite living in England for more than 60 years.

The nonagenarian has, according to her niece, always been fully aware of the global significance of what she did last year.

“She got her booster jab in September and used the opportunity to encourage others to do the same,” she said.

Mrs Keenan, who has a daughter, Sue (59), son Philip (61) and four grandchildren, is better known to her English family and friends as “Maggie”, but relatives on this side of the Irish Sea tend to refer to her as “Peggy”.

The former jewellery shop assistant retired five years ago aged 86.

A year ago, she told the gathered media: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19.

“It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with family and friends in the new year. I have been on my own for most of this year.

“I can’t thank [the nurse] and the NHS staff enough for looking after me.

“My advice to anyone offered this vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too.

“I don’t mind the attention; it doesn’t bother me. I’m just happy to have it done.”

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