William Shakespeare, first UK man to receive COVID vaccine, dies at 81

National and World

In this Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020 file photo, “Bill” William Shakespeare, 81, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital, Coventry, England. On Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting the first two recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine in Britain are “crisis actors.” At University Hospital Coventry on Dec. 8, nurse May Parsons first administered the vaccine to Margaret Keenan, 90, then to “Bill” William Shakespeare.(Jacob King/Pool via AP)

(NEXSTAR) – William Shakespeare, who made international headlines in December when he became the first man – and second person – in the U.K. to receive an approved vaccine for COVID-19, has died of an unrelated illness at the age of 81.

Shakespeare died on Thursday, Coventry Councilor and personal friend Jayne Innes told the BBC. Innes told the outlet that the “best tribute to Bill is to have the jab.”

Shakespeare, who worked for Rolls Royce and as a parish councilor, died of a stroke, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust told the BBC.

Shakespeare received his shot after 91-year-old Margaret Keenan. The vaccine pioneers led the way for millions in an effort to eradicate a virus that has killed over 3.4 million people across the globe.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Keenan at the time. “It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”

In this Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020 file photo, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, the first patient in the U.K. to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, receives an injection by nurse May Parsons at University Hospital, Coventry, England. On Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting the first two recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine in Britain are “crisis actors.” Parsons first administered the vaccine to Keenan, then to “Bill” William Shakespeare. (Jacob King/Pool via AP)

The New York Times reports that after he received the shot, Shakespeare said with a smile, “It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it?”

The monumental importance of that day and the 81-year-old’s name sent headline writers into a predictable frenzy with “Shakespeare gets Covid vaccine,” “The Taming of the Flu” and “The Gentlemen of Corona,” leading websites and newspapers.

The hospital where Shakespeare received the vaccine was the same one he died in six months later, according to Coventry Live.

Councilor Innes described him as a family man who enjoyed photography, jazz, the natural world and socializing. Innes added that she’ll also remember Shakespeare for his having a taste for mischief.

“He was a much respected figure in the Coventry Labour Party and he will be sorely missed,” Innes told Coventry Live.

Shakespeare is survived by his wife Joy, two sons and his granchildren, according to the outlet.

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