A pensioner who survived Covid-19 despite being given an hour to live by medics said he feels “great” after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
Michael Delaney, from Co Offaly, was in hospital for seven weeks with the virus last year.
The 78-year-old was among 47 residents at Ferbane Care Centre to get the jab.
It marked the beginning of the rollout of the vaccine to multiple nursing homes across Ireland.
Mr Delaney, from Ballycumber, collapsed outside his home and was rushed to hospital last March.
“I spent seven weeks in hospital and there was five weeks I don’t remember anything at all,” he said.
“They (the hospital) rang the family and said I had an hour to live. The next morning I was up eating breakfast and here I am today getting the vaccine.
“It’s great to get it. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s that good.
“I am very happy.”
Mr Delaney said he was looking forward to having visitors again.
“It means we could socialise with each other again,” he added.
Nicola Daly, director of nursing at Ferbane Care Centre, which is part of Windmill Healthcare, described it as an emotional day for residents and staff.
“It means the world, it’s amazing,” she said.
“Residents haven’t seen their families, and we have tried everything from Zoom, FaceTiming, WhatsApp.
“This is fantastic – we can live our lives again.
“I have a house here that is full of life and full of laughter, and we are near that step again.
“The staff have been amazing and have put their shoulder to the wheel, day after day after day and they have kept Covid out.”
She said: “The last nine months have been horrendous. I am nurse, I was never trained for this, none of my colleagues were. It’s like you were going into war the whole time.
“Your back is against the wall, you have the stiff neck and cannot relax and are anxious.
“If a resident got a cold, sore throat or temperature we thought it was Covid rather than thinking they have the flu.
“We have all aged 10 years.”
Residents and staff will receive a second dose of the vaccine in three weeks.
“By Valentine’s Day weekend we can start living and partying again. It will be great celebrations in Ferbane,” Ms Daly said.
Anne Marie Moore, assistant director of public health nursing and line manger for the vaccine programme in Laois/Offaly, said the vaccination process had been operating “smoothly”.
“It’s been very efficient and no problems have arisen,” she said.
“The residents are very calm and content, it’s all been explained to them in advance by the nursing home staff.
“There is a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and the team are very relaxed.”
Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) also welcomed the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
Ferbane Care Centre is one of 22 cares homes to receive the Pfizer jab this week.
NHI chief executive Tadhg Daly said: “Today marks a very significant milestone for a sector that has endured the worst impact of Covid-19.
“The virus lives with us more than ever before but today marks a very significant and important step for our nursing homes in overcoming a pandemic that they have been living with on a constant basis the past nine months.
“We continue to engage with the HSE with a view to expediting rollout of the vaccine to nursing homes across the country in as quick a manner as feasible.
“The necessity for speedy rollout is exacerbated by the huge growth in numbers within our communities, with this leading to an increase in cases in our nursing homes.
“Every day of the week presents opportunity for nursing home residents and staff to be vaccinated.”