May Parsons (middle), the Thomasian nurse who administered the world’s first Covid-19 shot, poses a photo with UST administrators and nursing students during her courtesy visit on Aug. 22. (Photo by Joselle Marie B. Reyes/ The Varsitarian)

UST ALUMNA May Parsons, the nurse who administered the world’s first Covid-19 shot and a recipient of the George Cross award, returned to the University for a courtesy visit on Aug. 22.

Welcomed by UST administrators at the Main Building, Parsons shared her experience as a Filipino migrant nurse in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying she had felt helpless and scared like other healthcare workers.

“The pandemic has caught us all off guard… I never thought I will experience it in my lifetime. Going to work literally felt like going to war,” she said.

“But the difference is, I couldn’t see my opponent, and there was nothing I could do to stop them [from] ravaging my patients nor myself and, consequently, my family. The raw fear was palpable in the air,” Parsons added.

Parsons earned her nursing degree from UST in 2000.

She worked as a scrub nurse at the UST Hospital until 2003 before moving to the United Kingdom, where she worked as a scrub nurse for the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) National Health Service (NHS) Trust and a post-anesthesia care unit nurse.

Parsons volunteered to be redeployed as a matron to intensive therapy units (ITU) when the first wave of Covid-19 hit the UK.

On Dec. 8, 2020, she was tasked to administer the world’s first Covid-19 shot, a Pfizer-BioNTech shot given to 91-year-old Margaret Keenan.

“I thought about what I can give and do to help, and, as a Filipino Thomasian nurse, no work is above me. If I can help in any way, shape, or form, I will do it. This is me and how I came to be to give the world’s first Covid vaccination outside of clinical trials to [Keenan] last December 2020 in Coventry, UK,” Parsons said.

Because of her historic feat, she was given the George Cross award, the highest award bestowed by the British government for acts of heroism or courage in circumstances of extreme danger, other than those performed in the face of an enemy, from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles on behalf of the NHS in July 2022.

Parsons said the Thomasian values she acquired at UST helped her in overcoming personal and professional challenges during the health crisis.

“Thank you, UST, for helping me become the nurse I am today. I am truly one proud Thomasian,” Parsons said.

Parsons also urged employers to be fair to Filipino nurses and treat them well.

“Kami pong mga nurses, tao lang din po kami. We have our families… May mga gastos po kami. Kami po ay hindi ipinag-aral ng gobyerno at hindi po libre ang aming matrikula, kailangan din po naming mabuhay… Hindi po natin sila (nurses) masisisi kung aalis po sila kasi hindi po nagbabago ang buhay nila,” she said. “My request is kung gusto niyo po silang mag-stay dito, be fair. Hindi naman po kami naghahanap ng pa-espesyal na trato. Ang kailangan lang po namin is fairness and equity.”

“Kung mayroon po akong magagawa to convince you na pahalagahan niyo ang healthcare workers, please come to me and I’ll tell you. I will be their voice, I will represent them. Kung kailangan niyo po ng tulong, kung gusto niyo pong mag explain pa ako, I will,” she continued.

The homecoming at the Rector’s Hall was attended by UST Secretary General Fr. Louie Coronel, O.P., Public Affairs Director Asst. Prof. Joreen Rocamora, Nursing Regent and UST Hospital CEO Fr. Julius Factora, O.P., Nursing Dean Prof. Rowena Chua, Office for Alumni Relations Director Asst. Prof. Fredeswindo Medina, UST Alumni Association Inc. President Evelyn Songco, and Nursing Alumni Association President Carl Balita.

UST Vice Rector Fr. Isaias Tiongco, O.P. also gave Parsons a certificate of commendation.

‘Take the Covid-19 vaccine’

Parsons also urged unvaccinated Filipinos to have themselves jabbed with Covid-19 vaccines as they are risking their health by not doing so.

“My message to the rest of the Filipinos who still haven’t had their vaccines, please take it… You are taking a gamble on your health and on how your body is going to react [when you contract Covid-19], and it’s a gamble not worth taking,” Parsons said.

“There’s a lot of people relying on you. All those people who have perished, they are somebody’s mom, they are somebody’s dad, they are somebody’s family. You don’t needlessly have to die. Mayroon na po tayong protection so please protect yourselves,” she added.

As of Aug. 21, about 72 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, of which 17.5 million have received their booster dose. Justin Benedict T. Lim


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.