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Fact check: Records do not show that the first COVID-19 vaccine recipient died in 2008

Posts claiming to offer proof that 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, the first recipient of the COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, died in 2008 have been circulating online. This is false: the so-called “evidence” is a birthday memoriam that refers to another woman with the same name.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The claim has been shared in various forms since Dec. 8 (here, here, here, here and here), the day Keenan became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine outside of a trial in Coventry, England (here).

Keenan is a grandmother and retired jewellery shop assistant who will turn 91 next week, making her top of the priority list for the coronavirus vaccination (here, here).

However, the claims allege that Keenan’s death is recorded on an obituary and memoriam website (here). One widely shared screenshot included a Facebook comment alleging: “I’ve been digging on that woman that is meant to have taken the first vaccine today...she died in 2008 she’s on the Funeral Notices.co.uk” (here).

The implication is that the woman who took the vaccine on Dec. 8 was not the real Keenan. This idea plays into baseless conspiracy theories that the vaccination was staged, Keenan was a “crisis actor” and has connections to the Illuminati, debunked by Reuters here .

It is purely coincidental that there is an entry for another woman called Margaret Keenan from Coventry on the obituary and memoriam site (here). The website has a searchable archive of 4,798,469 notices and there are many results for different people with the same name.

The screenshot in the social media posts does not show a death notice, but a memoriam posted in 2008 to commemorate the birthday of a woman who had died two years prior, according to the website. The memoriam says it was written by family members, including “devoted children Ailish, Julie, Maggie". The Margaret Keenan who was vaccinated on Dec. 8 has a daughter called Sue (here).

VERDICT

False. Margaret Keenan received the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial in the English city of Coventry on Dec. 8. A different woman with the same name is remembered through a memoriam posted in 2008.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here

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