Filipino nurse who administered world’s first COVID-19 vaccine receives UK's highest civilian honor

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The Filipino nurse who administered the world’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine received the prestigious George Cross award on behalf of the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom.

May Parsons was the first nurse to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine to then-90-year-old Margaret Keenan at a local hospital in Coventry, England, on Dec. 8, 2020. Keenan also became the first person to receive the approved vaccine.

Along with NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard, Parsons received the George Cross from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles on July 12 at the Windsor Castle. The award honors the 1.5 million staff who work for the NHS.

“This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations,” Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Vernon, comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain’s office, reportedly said. “Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service. You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation.”

The George Cross, which was first introduced in 1940 by King George VI, is the highest award given by the British government to non-military citizens for their “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger,” according to the Royal Family.

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“I’m deeply honored to represent the wonderful and dedicated people within the NHS and Social Care who have shown up everyday to care for our people and communities despite the challenges and sacrifices we’ve had to take posed by the Covid-19 Pandemic,” Parsons reportedly wrote in a Facebook post.

“We remember our fallen colleagues who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and I cannot be more proud of our achievements as a whole,” she added. “The George Cross is a fitting tribute as we continue to fulfill our pledge to care and to serve our communities.”

Parsons works at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust as a modern matron for respiratory Services. She obtained her nursing degree from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in 2000 in Manila. Parsons worked at the UST Hospital for three years before moving to the U.K. in 2003.

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The Philippines remains one of the world’s largest exporter of nurses around the world.

“I am really glad to be telling all the Filipinos, in this country and everywhere in the world, we can make a difference and we do offer positive contributions to humanity, as it were,” Parsons told “Good Morning Britain.” “I think it is a historical event for Filipinos all across the globe for making sure that we are proud of what we have achieved and what we contribute to everyone and the care we give.”

Featured Image via @NHSEngland