Health secretary Matt Hancock appeared very briefly overcome with emotion on live TV as he watched footage of Mr Shakespeare’s getting the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine – looking down and wiping at his eye.
The 81-year-old namesake of England’s greatest dramatist had the injection at University Hospital Coventry in Warwickshire on Tuesday morning – only 20 miles from the bard’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
ITV’s Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan noted he had become “quite emotional”, to which Mr Hancock replied: “It’s been such a tough year for so many people – and there’s William Shakespeare putting it so simply for everybody, that we can get on with our lives.”
Having collected himself, the minister added: “There’s so much work gone into this. It makes you so proud to be British.”
Mr Hancock also told Sky News he was “feeling quite emotional, actually,” after watching 90-year-old Margaret Keenan become the very first person to get the jab. The Coventry woman was applauded by NHS staff after getting the first dose of the two-dose vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNtech.
Mr Shakespeare’s shot inspired a huge reaction on social media, as Twitter users joked about “The Taming of the Flu” and “The Two Gentlemen of Corona”.
Some asked if Ms Keenan was patient 1A, then was Mr Shakespeare “Patient 2B or not 2B?”.
Ms Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said: “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.”
Mr Hancock said he has “great hopes” for next summer but also hopes that restrictions can be lifted from the spring.
He said he hoped some care home residents would start being vaccinated before Christmas, and also revealed that vaccine cards being issued to patients were “standard NHS reminder cards” for the follow-up appointment for the second dose.
He added: “We are not proposing to have a sort of immunity certificate that allows you to do different things.”