Covid vaccine jabs accompanied by organ music at Salisbury Cathedral

800-year-old building becomes temporary vaccination centre for priority patients invited by GPs

Soothing organ music was played as hundreds of people over 80 received Covid jabs in what must be the UK’s most spectacular and historic vaccination centre – Salisbury Cathedral.

Louis Godwin, 95, a former RAF flight sergeant, gave a thumbs-up after being vaccinated in the cathedral, which dates back more than 800 years. He described receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech jab as absolutely marvellousl.

“I’ve had many jabs in my time, especially in the RAF,” he said. “After the war, I was sent to Egypt and I had a couple of jabs, which knocked me over for a week. “This one, the doctor said to me: ‘Well that’s done,’ and I thought he hadn’t started. So it’s no trouble at all and no pain.”

Godwin said the coronavirus pandemic had meant he was unable see his family, but that he had been using FaceTime and Zoom to keep in touch.

Louis Godwin receives an injection of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral.
Louis Godwin receives his vaccination. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

He said: “This is a terrible virus and I would suggest that the vaccine is nothing, you don’t feel a thing, you don’t even feel the pinprick, so anybody that needs one and can get one, I would say go ahead and do it quickly. It’s the only way we’re going to beat the virus.”

Graham Turner, 88, a chaplain at Salisbury Cathedral, wore his cassock to receive his vaccine. He described the music as marvellous and praised staff as terrific.

“It is just a treat in every way,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place to visit. I happen to be used to it and I feel I’m among friends.”

Local GPs invited a group of patients to be vaccinated and the cathedral organised a programme of music, which was played on its 19th-century Father Willis organ.

The Very Rev Nicholas Papadopulos, the dean of Salisbury, said the cathedral was delighted to be helping. “We are proud to be playing our part in the life-saving vaccination programme, which offers real hope in these difficult times,” he said.

“This place has stood here for 800 years to give glory to God, and to serve the city and the region. What better way could there be of doing that than hosting Salisbury’s stage in the vaccination programme. It is absolutely wonderful.”

He described the vaccines as “a real sign of hope for us at the end of this very, very difficult year”.

“I doubt that anyone is having a jab in surroundings that are more beautiful than this so I hope it will ease people as they come into the building,” he said.

The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is prepared by a healthcare worker at Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire.
A nurse prepares a vaccine dose in Salisbury Cathedral. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Dr Dan Henderson, the co-clinical director for the Sarum South Primary Care Network, said about 1,000 patients and staff would receive vaccines on Saturday.

“I doubt that anyone is having a jab in surroundings that are more beautiful than this so I hope it will ease people as they come into the building,” he said.

“It is a bonus to be in such an iconic, wonderful place. It’s great to be getting the vaccine out there and getting them in people’s arms and knowing that this is hopefully the start of some sort of normality again.”

The cathedral, refectory and gift shop are all closed and services are taking place online.

The medieval nave of Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire was also turned into a vaccination centre on Friday. Field hospital-style facilities and waiting areas were set up inside the cathedral, including along its central aisle.

The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Rev Adrian Dorber, said: “It’s a real glimmer of hope after a very dark year, and we are delighted to be able to offer the place as a nice, airy, socially distanced space in which this can take place.

“I hope it’s a symbol of how all the communities can come together to facilitate the rollout of this amazing vaccine. We’ve got some really well-drilled volunteers and a really capable staff, who have gone into battle action and done it.”

Michael Fabricant, the city’s MP, tweeted: “They came in the middle ages for the cure. They still come today.”


Steven Morris and agency

The GuardianTramp

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