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Chelsea Pensioners today thanked the NHS for an “early Christmas gift” as the hero veterans received the life-saving coronavirus vaccine.
Around 300 residents of the world-famous Royal Hospital Chelsea, who have served in Korea, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and World War II, and all will be offered the jab.
They include Bob Sullivan, 98 year-old D-Day veteran, who fought in World War II.
“This year has changed life as we know it causing uncertainty and worry,” he said.
“Getting vaccinated against coronavirus today is the best early Christmas gift we could hope for and thanks to our nursing team here and NHS staff like Pippa we will have a real spring in our step as we head into our locked down Christmas.”
Chelsea Pensioner Pam Richards, 88 who served with the Women’s Royal Army Corp said: “I think the vaccine is really important. You’re not just protecting yourself, you’re also protecting everyone else.”
Pippa Nightingale chief nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who is vaccinating the Chelsea pensioners, said: “Delivering this life-saving vaccine to the Chelsea Pensioners is a real honour, they’ve fought to protect us and now we can return the favour and help protect them from coronavirus.
“The NHS has had a fantastic start to its largest ever vaccination programme, it is a positive way to end what has been a challenging year for the NHS and feels very rewarding to be administering the vaccine. I am looking forward to coming back in 21 days to administer the second vaccine as it’s vital that once everybody has had their first jab, that they attend their follow-up appointment for the second.”
The NHS was the first health service in the world to vaccinate people against coronavirus, outside of a clinical trial.
Care home residents and staff are being prioritised along with people aged 80 and above in the first phase of the vaccination programme, the biggest in NHS history.
Just over two weeks since the first vaccination hundreds of thousands of people have been vaccinated at 60 hospital hubs and more than 500 GP-run vaccination centres.
Practising GP and NHS director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: “GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other primary care staff have well established relationships with their care homes and people in their local areas and I’m proud that we are able to vaccinate those at highest risk, ensuring they are protected from coronavirus.
“It is down to the efforts of hardworking NHS staff that hundreds of local vaccination services led by family doctors and their teams are now vaccinating their patients, including our veterans at Chelsea pensioners, with many more due to be vaccinated over the festive period.”
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea said: “Today marks a new chapter in the Hospital’s battle with coronavirus. With an average age of 82, the Chelsea Pensioners are in the highest priority group to receive the vaccine. This is an early Christmas present for them whilst they, like the rest of the country come to terms with the latest restrictions.
“We all look forward to a better 2021 when they can be out and about representing the Nation’s Veterans throughout the country. Meanwhile, they send their warmest wishes to the nation as they too, batten down the hatches to celebrate a socially distanced Christmas.”
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “This vaccine is the Christmas present I know so many people have been asking for. I’m delighted that many care staff and residents have already been able to receive their first jabs, including our veterans, the Chelsea pensioners who fought to protect us.
“With more than 500,000 people already vaccinated, including social care staff – this is the biggest immunisation programme in UK history and we’re determined to vaccinate many more people over the Christmas period”.
The NHS will contact people in the priority groups when it is their turn to receive the vaccine. There is no need to contact the NHS.