LONDON – To be or not to be vaccinated, that is the question.
After an 81-year-old named William Shakespeare became the second person in the West to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in England outside clinical trials Tuesday, social media erupted with joy, puns and many quotes from the great English playwright.
“They really are prioritising the elderly: this guy is 456,” wrote one user, while the term “Two Gentlemen of Corona,” a play on “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” swiftly became a top trend in the United Kingdom.
Others quipped that the first batch of inoculations, part of the first mass coronavirus immunization campaign in the West, marked the “Taming of the Flu.”
The man, also known as Bill, told “Good Morning Britain” that the moment was “groundbreaking,” adding, ‘It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it. It will be a precaution.”
“Is this a needle which I see before me?” one Twitter user wrote, recalling the symbolic words spoken by the character of Macbeth – or as some joked “Vacbeth” in one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies.
British tabloids also pounced on the fact that the Shakespeare inoculated Tuesday, who lives in Warwickshire in England, shares not just the same name as the poet but also a home county.
The playwright is also referred to as the “Bard of Avon,” with bard being a synonym of the word “poet” and Stratford-upon-Avon being his birthplace in the year 1564.
“I’m surprised they let William Shakespeare have the vaccine. I thought he was Bard,” read one tweet, while another user called for “Shakespeare puns to be bard.”
Shakespeare was administered the Pfizer vaccine by nurse May Parsons, who arrived in the United Kingdom from the Philippines 17 years ago. The nurse was applauded after giving the first shots and later told “Good Morning Britain” that she was “proud to contribute to stopping the pandemic.”
While many on social media celebrated the vaccine rollout, some users claimed the reaction was “much ado about nothing.”
Shakespeare received his shot after 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan, who said she felt “privileged” to be the first person in the West to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which has ravaged the United Kingdom, plunging the country into two lockdowns and claiming at least 61,000 lives.
Both Shakespeare and Keenan found instant fame Tuesday as footage of them receiving the vaccine was widely watched at home and abroad.
“All’s well that ends well,” read one tweet. “A plague on neither of their houses,” read another.
For many in Britain, the day marked a historic and emotional step in the country’s – and the world’s – fight against the pandemic that has infected more than 67 million people globally since the first outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China late last year.