Blackburn Cathedral opens today (Monday) as one of the nation’s mass Covid-19 vaccination centres.
Hope2021 – Blackburn Cathedral makes history as it opens as one of the nation’s mass vaccination centres
Since summer, contractors have been transforming the Undercroft and Crypt area of the Church of England’s youngest cathedral into a purpose-built large scale clinic ready for the roll out of the vaccine programme.
Blackburn Cathedral is one of ten new mass covid vaccination hubs to supplement the seven existing mass vaccination centres already in use across the country and will act as the central hub for the Lancashire and South Cumbria area which has seen some of the highest infection rates in the country.
Its Undercroft and Crypt area is accessible through a separate entrance to the main Cathedral building and is expected to be used as an inoculation centre for a period of 12 – 14 months, able to offer vaccinations 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Thousands of people aged 80 and over are being invited to the Blackburn Cathedral vaccination centre. Those who are eligible, who live within 45 minutes’ drive from the new vaccination site and who haven’t already been vaccinated by their local GP led vaccination services or hospital hub, will receive letters from the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service, telling them how they can book their appointment there.
They will be greeted by volunteers who will marshal car parks and register them when they arrive. Bookings are staggered to allow social distancing. People will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their injection, and the whole service will be led and overseen by trained nurses.
Blackburn is the third Church of England cathedral able to be involved in the vaccine programme to help meet the Government’s target of vaccinating 15 million people in the UK by the middle of February. Lichfield and Salisbury cathedrals have both just opened as regional vaccine clinics.
The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Revd Peter Howell Jones said: “At the heart of the Christian faith is love and hospitality, and a God that cares for all people.
“It is only right that in times of national crisis we offer our building as a safe and accessible space for this exciting vaccination programme and be here to serve the nation in these times of deep uncertainty and fear.
“We see this as a sign of great hope in the fight against this pandemic and are proud to be at the heart of that fight.”
Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:
“I am delighted that Blackburn Cathedral’s crypt will host the first large vaccination centre in Lancashire. This is a small piece of history for our borough that we can wear proudly and, while indications are that our battle with the virus will get worse before it gets better, this marks a real turning point. My warmest thanks to the team at the cathedral for facilitating this.
“With this new site open and work already underway to support the roll-out of the vaccine elsewhere in the borough, we must pick up the pace and get people vaccinated in the shortest time possible. I urge everyone invited to attend an appointment to do so. And to keep following the Government’s lockdown restrictions at all times.”
Professor Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health and Wellbeing for Blackburn with Darwen, said: “Vaccinating the most vulnerable people in our communities, those most likely to be hospitalised, will make a very big difference to how quickly we can exit the most severe control measures we have had to put in place to save lives. I urge everyone invited to attend for vaccination to take up their appointments – we cannot afford to miss even one opportunity.
“Although we are going to have a very big challenge over the next two months, we should remember – it is always darkest just before the dawn and the vaccination programme is truly the ‘beginning of the end’ of the pandemic.”