Having the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine was an early birthday present for one of the first people to receive it at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT).
Eighty-one-year-old Raymond Wray, from Clacton, was the first person to have the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination at Colchester Hospital, closely followed by Alice Lennox, who turns 82 on Sunday, 12 December.
Alice, from Bures, was the first woman to receive the vaccine. She was “excited and thrilled” to have it so quickly and said it was her birthday present.
“It’s a terrific achievement,” she said.
“The dedication of all the people who have worked so hard – the NHS and the people who have been developing it – is just incredible.
“I’m so excited to be one of the first and I was absolutely thrilled when they phoned and offered it to me. I didn’t expect it for a while. I hope it will encourage others to have it too. I barely felt it, it was over before I realised it had started.”
Alice admitted the sense of isolation she has felt during the pandemic has been hard, but she has been grateful for all the support she’s received from the local community, her church and her children.
She has received regular phone calls to check on her welfare, as well as food parcels, but the many social events organised through the church is what she has missed most.
Alice said: “We still need to be careful, not everyone obeys the rules, but the vaccine will give us that reassurance and help us to feel safe.”
Ray said he had “no concerns” about taking up the vaccine and his message for others is “don’t worry about it”.
He said: “It’s going to make such a difference. It feels really good to have had it done today.
“I didn’t expect to be the first – it’s quite a surprise.”
Ray is an ESNEFT outpatient and was due to have surgery this week, but he chose to postpone it until after Christmas. He was glad he made that decision though as it meant he was able to have his Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine as soon as possible.
With two members of his family being affected by the virus this year, he was never in any doubt about having the vaccine. Ray’s wife of 58 years, Eileen, will also have it when she is invited, meaning they can get back to enjoying holidays together and seeing their family too.
Also receiving the vaccine today were husband and wife John, 81, and Margaret, 80, Barrett, who are from Rowhedge.
They said it was “an absolute privilege” to be among the first people in north Essex and east Suffolk to get the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. They also hope this significant milestone marks the “beginning of the end” and they will soon be able to see their children and six grandchildren again, who they have not been able to see face to face since February.
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ESNEFT Chief Executive Nick Hulme said: “This really is an incredible day for the NHS and for our hospitals. I am so proud of all our teams who have worked together to make this happen.
“We must remember that this is just the beginning though. Today we are asking our communities to be patient. We know it will take many weeks to get the vaccine to everyone who is in a vulnerable group. Do wait for us to get in touch with you to invite you along for your vaccination, and thank you for helping to be a part of the safe delivery of this vaccine.
“In the meantime, remember hands, face, space and do all you can to keep yourself and others around you safe and well.”
Chief Medical Officer for ESNEFT Dr Angela Tillett said: “It’s a really exciting day.
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“Our teams have done a fabulous job in bringing everything together and getting our vaccination centre up and running at Colchester Hospital, with patient safety being at its heart.
“I’m so delighted we’re now able to offer the vaccine and make a difference to our patients and local communities. We must still be vigilant though. We must stay alert and we must all continue to follow the hands, face, space safety advice to reduce the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).”