Star of BBC's Hospital documentary Nancy Jirira gets Covid-19 jab

‘You know what, if the Queen and Pope have had it, why am I going to miss out?'

Thursday, 28th January 2021 — By Harry Taylor

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Nancy Jirira getting her vaccine today (Thursday)

NANCY Jirira – one of the stars of the BBC’s Hospital documentary which covered the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic at the Royal Free Hospital – has had her Covid-19 vaccine jab today (Thursday) and encouraged other people from a black and minority ethnic (BAME) background to do the same.

The former Fortune Green councillor won a place in the nation’s hearts as she was shown to be seriously ill in hospital. She was the first patient in the country to have coronavirus and laryngitis at the same time. Her speech as she left her ward on the 11th floor of Royal Free’s Hampstead site brought tears to the eyes of viewers as she thanked staff and said: “We shall overcome”.

The community nurse was getting the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab at her workplace – the Belsize Priory GP surgery in Belsize Road.

Amid concern that not enough Bame people are getting the jab, she told the New Journal: “Just run for it, actually ask to have it, demand to have it, as soon as the time comes go and have it. If you’re offered it, go, don’t miss the slot.

“I’m saying: ‘You know what, if the Queen and Pope have had it, why am I going to miss out?’ We should have it as all of the aboves are having it.’”


Ms Jirira, who has lived in West Hampstead since 1970, said she was “very grateful” while she got the vaccine from her GP, Dr Sumara Nadeem from Fortune Green Practice.

Research and polling has shown that people from a Bame background are not taking up the jab in the large numbers that were hoped. Earlier this month Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) raised concerns and a study conducted in November showed 72 per cent of people from a similar background were unlikely to get the jab.

In Camden, figures suggest the uptake rates among black residents who are over 70 is at around only 28 per cent. In comparison, around 64 per cent of white residents of the same age have accepted the offer of a vaccine.

Nancy Jirira is applauded out of the Royal Free after her amazing recovery from the coronavirus

This week MPs from both the Labour and Conservative parties took part in a social media video encouraging people to get inoculated.

Mr Jirira, a Liberal Democrat, said: “All of the people I know are very positive, but there is a big social media activity going on out there which is dissuading people about getting the jab. I have asked questions because I [am a] Covid champion and we meet every week to highlight the myths in the population. They have told us there is no animal fat, no animal products involved, they are synthetically made, so people should go ahead and have it done

She added: “My Muslim colleagues are going back to tell their colleagues, they are different sections, they are not homogeneous, so you have to outreach to different Mosques. So we have to do some work with different Muslim communities to encourage them, but also with different African and Caribbean communities to encourage them to have the jab.

Speaking nine months since the documentary aired, she said she had not realised how gravely ill she had been when it was made and that her daughter had been told to prepare for her dying. The nurse returned to work in September, in her 50th year working for the NHS

“I am here by the grace of something,” she said.  “I was having to be helped into and out of the bath. I insisted on a daily basis to wake up and have a bath, I was not going to be a patient. My daughter was nursing me, hourly fluids, because she is a doctor at Imperial, so she wasn’t going to miss anything. Up until July I was under heavy monitoring.

Ms Jirira added: “I think I have done remarkably well. That’s the words to use, because I have felt much better, very positively, considering where I was coming from – a 40 to 60 per cent chance of life. It’s all due to fortune and the Royal Free and generally the support I’ve had from friends, colleagues at work.

“It’s been lovely being back at work, but I wish I had not had this illness, as I would have been working twice as hard to go and be deployed to help my colleagues, because they are helping the district nurses and helping people do the jabs. So I’m here, filling in at the back end, I wish I was at the front end.”

Leader of the Lib Dem group Luisa Porritt said: “It was a pleasure to join my friend Nancy today as she receivd her [first] vaccination for Covid-19. It’s vitally important to reassure the black community in Camden that the vaccine is safe.

“We already know vaccination uptake rates among black residents and other ethnic minorities in Camden are disproportionately low compared with white residents in the borough, and community champions like Nancy can help build confidence.”


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