Thousands of people descended on Twickenham Rugby Stadium as it opened up slots for the Covid-19 vaccine to anyone over the age of 18
11,000 people received their jabs at the major walk-in vaccine centre on Monday (31 May) after slots were made available to those in the local area who had not yet been vaccinated.
Dubbed Let’s Tackle Covid, the event hoped to boost the number of vaccinations as cases of the Indian coronavirus variant surge in Hounslow, west London.
Young people turned out in droves
Currently, people aged 30 and over are being called up for vaccination across England, but event organisers began offering up the jabs to all adults on Monday afternoon.
From around 2.30pm, anyone over the age of 18 could go to the stadium to receive a jab as the centre did not want any of the vaccine to be wasted.
More than 100 vaccinators, including a mixture of GPs and nurses, were on duty to hand out the jabs.
Opening up the centre to all adults prompted huge queues to form around the venue as young people turned out in droves to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Kira Lewis, 21, travelled from Hampstead Heath in north London with her partner, Nathan Burns, 24, to get her jab after seeing it was available on Twitter.
The King’s College graduate, who now works at Labour First, said: “We came from the other side of London for it, as it’s worth the opportunity.
“Despite seeing the huge queue that is snaking around the stadium people are still keen to join, with some running to get to the back.
“We want to help protect others and it’s maddening to see the government say we won’t want it. I want it so I can feel safer visiting my family and at work when I’m around people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.
“It felt like we either get it today or potentially wait months for the next opportunity.
“I hate needles. But it’ll have to be done sooner or later and getting the vaccine is definitely for the best. I had coronavirus at Christmas and it was horrible. It’s better to avoid it again or passing it on.”
Scotland international rugby union player Rory Hutchinson was also among those who queued up to get vaccinated.
The 25-year-old Northampton Saints player said “for me it is the right thing to do and that is why I am here today”.
He added: “It was a really smooth process. I thought they were very professional. It was easy to find. I walked straight in and got my vaccine done. Then just had to wait a short while to make sure I was OK.
“I think we have been through a really tough time recently and hopefully we are on the mend now. I am just doing what I can to support that.”
An ‘amazing’ response
The event was organised in a short space of time by the local NHS trust in partnership with Hounslow Council, and supported by England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU).
The gates closed at 6.45pm with organisers saying thousands had been vaccinated, and the response had been “amazing”.
Dr Genevieve Small, a Harrow GP and the clinical lead for the north west London vaccination programme, said the event had been “something quite powerful” for a range of people.
She explained: “We have been able to provide this facility on the day for people who perhaps knew they were allowed to get the vaccine but had not come around to sorting it out, or who have just been more spontaneous, or who had previously questions about the programme and now feel ready to come forward for the vaccination.
“There is, of course, a want (or a need) to make sure we are protecting the areas that are seeing more cases of the new variant.
“We have been given the opportunity (to do this). We have been given the vaccine and we have gone for it.”
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