Ian McKellen wants to give the NHS ‘a big hug’ after receiving coronavirus vaccine: ‘I feel very lucky’

Ian McKellen receives the coronavirus vaccine while wearing a rainbow scarf and face mask

Ian McKellen has praised the British National Health Service and wants to give it “a big hug” after becoming one of the first in the nation to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

The 81-year-old actor was injected with the Pfizer-BioTNech COVID-19 vaccine as part of the mass rollout that will see tens of millions vaccinated against the virus in a matter of months.

With the vaccine prioritised to those at highest-risk, over-80, and frontline healthcare and care home workers, McKellen was among the top of the list for his jab on Wednesday (16 December).

He said: “It’s a very special day, I feel euphoric.”

Ian McKellen: ‘I would encourage everybody to do the sensible thing’

“Anyone who has lived as long as I have is alive because they have had previous vaccinations, the take-up amongst the older generation will be 100 per cent – it ought to be – because you’re having it not just for yourself but for people who you are close to – you’re doing your bit for society.

“Of course, it’s painless, it’s convenient, and getting in touch and meeting NHS staff and saying thank you to them for how hard they’ve been working is a bonus, I would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone.

“I feel very lucky to have had the vaccine.”

The Lord of the Rings implored Britain’s oldest and beyond to get the vaccine, which he received at the Arts Research Centre in Queen Mary University Hospital.

Ian McKellen told ITV: “Next time I come – well no, six days after I next come – I’m going to give them all a big hug. Is that allowed? I don’t know.

“That’s the real bonus of all this, to watch and see what works in this country and what doesn’t work – and it seems to me the NHS is right at the top of the list for institutions that do work.”

He added: “I would encourage everybody to do the sensible thing, not just for themselves but for everybody else because if you’re virus-free that helps everybody else, doesn’t it?”

What is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?

The German company BioTNech partnered with US drugmaker Pfizer to develop and test the coronavirus vaccine, known as BNT162b2. Clinical trials showed it has an efficacy rate of 95 per cent.

It requires two injections 21 days apart.

There are many types of vaccines, and the Pfizer-BioNTech essentially gives the body a safe blueprint for it to battle SARS-CoV-2.

A nurse carries a syringe full of the coronavirus vaccine in a make-shift NHS vaccine centre

A nurse prepares the first of two injections with a dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a makeshift NHS clinic in a horse racing ground. (STEVE PARSONS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The vaccine works by injecting the body with the genetic material cells read to make proteins – in this case, the spiked proteins that give the coronavirus its “crown” shape.

Completely harmless, our cells breakdown the injected material but make a note of the protein shape.

So, if the body encounters the coronavirus – with its spiked proteins – the body knows it shouldn’t be there and already has the plan ready to make antibodies and T-lymphocytes.

T-lymphocytes, also known as T-cells, are tailor-made by the immune system to hone in on and destroy cells infected by viruses. They, too, recognise the spiked proteins that cling to the surfaces of infected cells.

It is possible, researchers say, that the immediate amount of antibodies and T-cells in the body will drop in the months after the vaccination.

But the body is completely prepared for this – the immune system is packed with special memory cells that remember the coronavirus for years or even decades.