Rae Whitehead, 79, died on 1 December after testing positive for Covid-19 at her care home in East Yorkshire.
On Tuesday her husband Edward, 84, was one of the first to receive the jab at Middlesbrough's James Cook Hospital.
The couple's surgeon son Dr David Whitehead, 49, said he felt relief his father had had the jab but "heartbreak" his mother could not be saved.
Mr Whitehead, 49, an ENT consultant in Middlesbrough, who also received the jab with his father, who is also a retired ENT surgeon, said: "It's heartbreaking on the one hand and also potential relief on the other.
"My father and I are deeply saddened that, had we not put my mother in a nursing home, she would maybe be alive today and could have had the vaccine.
"Her life slipped away - a week later the vaccine is being rolled out."
Dr Whitehead said his mother, who had worked as a civil servant before having children, had spent her life "looking after us and the family".
He said he had contracted coronavirus himself in March, and had a temperature and a "sensation as if my head was being boiled alive".
He said the NHS rollout of the vaccine had made him proud.
"This is the good thing about the NHS - because it's nationalised we have this ability and power to have these interactions with the large pharmaceutical companies so that this sort of thing can happen," he said.
"I feel quite proud that we've managed to approve it, a vaccine from a trial, so quickly."
On Tuesday UK grandmother Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, became the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.
Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.