Once Margaret Keenan made history by becoming the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, she and her existence became the target of online conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers, who took to the internet with lies about the elderly woman being dead or, even, a member of the Illuminati. Keenan, who turns 91 next week, received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the U.K. on Tuesday at University Hospital in Coventry.
"I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19. 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,” Keenan told reporters after the hospital visit.
Whispers of rumors came within hours, spewing unfounded claims that the real Keenan had actually died in 2008, Vice News reported. This assertion, posted as a comment on social media, was from someone who matter-of-factly said that there is no living Margaret Keenan living in Coventry, citing an obituary on a funeral website for a woman with the same name.
This conspiracist, who claimed to also be from Coventry, added that in their time growing up in the city of 310,00 people, they have never heard of a woman by that name. Keenan had been confirmed to be alive, and to live in Coventry.
Others claimed that Keenan and the health care officials who administered the vaccine were just "crisis actors" hired to perform the globally-televised injection. Upon fact-checking these theories, it became quickly known that May Parsons, the nurse who administered the vaccine, is originally from the Philippines and has been working at the U.K. hospital for 24 years, according to News Chain.
“It’s a huge honor to be the first person in the country to deliver a COVID-19 jab to a patient; I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day,” Persons said, according to Vice.
Like Keenan, Bill Gates has been targeted by conspiracy theorists. The Microsoft founder has been accused of plotting to gain total mind control over those injected with the vaccine, though those conspiracy theorists also believe patients are actually being injected with microchips instead of the vaccine. This theory was conceived and disputed long before the first vaccine was ever administered.
During an interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Gates calmly responded to concerns over such theories.
"There’s always been a small group of anti-vaccination people, and we see this with the measles vaccine. They’ve now got a platform, and they’ve joined forces with some political-conspiracy dudes," he said on the show. "And it’s so easy to click on, particularly when a simple explanation for this pandemic—that there is somebody evil behind it—is somehow easier than the true biology, which is actually kind of complicated. So we have to make the truth more interesting. We’ve got to label things with the truth.”
Britain ordered 40 million doses, enough to vaccinate 20 million people since each vaccine requires two doses per person. The U.K. has had one of the worst outbreaks in Europe, with almost 1.75 million cases and 61,434 deaths.
In light of pushback and skepticism, politicians and public figures are coming forward to calm the public, some even announcing their willingness to receive the vaccine as a way to gain trust among the public.