First man in Britain to receive approved COVID vaccine dies at 81

By Elian Peltier

LONDON – William Shakespeare, the man with a famous name who inspired headline writers across Britain last year when he became the second person in the country to receive a coronavirus vaccine, has died after suffering a stroke, his family said in a statement. He was 81.

Since Shakespeare was vaccinated Dec. 8 at University Hospital, Coventry, in central England, 57% of Britain’s population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

On Tuesday (25), people older than 30 in Britain became eligible to receive a vaccine.

In a statement released through the hospital where Shakespeare was vaccinated, his wife of 53 years, Joy, said he had been grateful for becoming one of the first people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“It was something he was hugely proud of,” she said. “He loved seeing the media coverage and the positive difference he was able to make to the lives of so many.”

“He often talked to people about it and would always encourage everyone to get their vaccine whenever he could,” she said.

Shakespeare died Thursday (20) at the hospital where he had been vaccinated, and where he had been hospitalized last year after suffering a stroke.

Shakespeare received his first dose shortly after Margaret Keenan, then 90, became the first person in Britain to be vaccinated and the first in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested coronavirus vaccine.

Their vaccinations brought a sense of optimism to Britain: “If I can have it at 90 then you can have it, too!” Keenan said at the time.

At least 127,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Britain, according to a New York Times database, the world’s fifth-highest known death toll.

The other William Shakespeare, the playwright and poet who died in 1616, also has a connection to the coronavirus pandemic: The section of Westminster Abbey in London that includes Poet’s Corner, where he is buried, was used as a vaccination centre this spring.

The family of the modern Shakespeare said he would be remembered for much more than sharing a name with one of England’s most famous historical figures. He was an amateur photographer and jazz aficionado, a parish councillor and an official at local schools for more than two decades.

A local councillor and friend of Shakespeare’s, Jayne Innes, said on Twitter, “Bill will be remembered for many things, including a taste for mischief.”

“Bill loved meeting people and helping them in any way possible,” Joy Shakespeare said. “Most of all he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather.”

-New York Times



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