Immediately after her appointment she told this newspaper: “I was thrilled when my GP’s surgery rang and I was summoned for my jab. We eighty-year-olds are so privileged to receive the best, the only effective protection against Covid. I feel so grateful to the dedicated scientists who invented it and the equally dedicated NHS who deliver it to us. It’s a miracle.”
National treasure Dame Esther is known to millions as the eternally optimistic presenter of That’s Life! which ran for 21 years and drew regular audiences of 18 million and as the tireless modern day campaigner who set up ChildLine in 1986 and The Silver Line for lonely pensioners in 2013.
She has three children Miriam, Rebecca and Joshua from her marriage to the late Desmond Wilcox.
But the most painful part of the long and weary pandemic has been forced separation from her five beloved grandchildren Benji, seven, Xander and Teddy five, and Florence and Romilly, two, and her string of friends.
Dame Esther has openly admitted to struggling with loss, which first struck when her documentary maker husband died in 2000. And, like millions across Britain, lockdown has been a daily battle against isolation and loneliness.
But after receiving the jab at Milford War Memorial Hospital in Lymington, near her New Forest home in Hampshire, she beamed: “To hear the joy in my children’s voices when I rang to tell them that I’d been given my appointment was the best Christmas present I could have.
“Obviously I must wait for a few weeks after the second jab, which will happen in January, to be protected from this virus, but by next February it may be safe for me to see my beloved family again.
“So for me there really is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. My heart goes out to all the others who will be spending lonely Christmases, without the hope this vaccination has given me.
“It’s not been easy. I’d been looking forward so much to being with my children and grandchildren, but I’ve told them this year my present to them will be to refuse to come and see them. My family lives in London, in Tier 4, where the numbers of infections and deaths are on the increase. No way do I wish my family to remember this Christmas as the year they killed granny.
“Nor do I want to take up valuable space in an intensive care unit just for the sake of watching my beloved grandchildren open their stockings, which was always our normal Christmas morning ritual.
“The new normal this year will be to join them virtually, via Zoom or Facetime, and hope that the vaccine will allow us to hug each other properly in a few month’s time.”
And she pleaded with those who might have reservations about receiving the two shot Pfizer vaccine not to give it a second thought, saying it was the only route back to normality.
She added: “It’s such good news that the over eighties and the heroes who work on the frontline delivering healthcare services have been given priority.
“It shows how highly you are valued. And I urge any readers of the Daily Express who are offered a vaccination to accept this crucial invitation.
“Silver Line callers often say their greatest dread is being carted off to intensive care units alone, and maybe even dying alone. Two small jabs in the arm and they will be protected from that nightmare. It’s the best way for us all to stay safe.”