A vaccination centre set up in a cathedral crypt is a “sign of hope”, the dean has said.
Patients began receiving their Covid-19 vaccines at Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire on Monday as it became one of the latest large-scale centres to open its doors.
Dean of the cathedral the Very Reverend Peter Howell-Jones said: “I think to see the building being used in the way that it is is offering a sign of hope.
“Of course, church buildings generally are perceived as places that are welcoming and signs of hope so it just comes together in a really positive way for us.”
He said the cathedral community was “delighted” to be able to host the vaccination centre.
He added: “This is most unusual for the cathedral to be embracing.
“Clearly we use the building in a whole variety of ways normally, we have concerts in here, we have exhibitions, we have markets and, of course, we have acts of public worship but never before have we been used in this way as a vaccination centre or anything working with the medical professionals so it’s a real wonderful first for us here at Blackburn Cathedral today.”
One of the first to receive their vaccines in the crypt was 82-year-old John Mason, who said the process was “easy peasy”.
Asked what he was looking forward to when things returned to normal, Mr Mason said: “A pint.”
Chief executive of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust Kevin McGee said the efforts of staff in hospitals and communities, as well as volunteers, had helped to get the centre up and running.
He said: “We have to deliver these mass vaccination centres because only by vaccinating all of our public will we stop people having to come into hospital with Covid and having to go into ITU.
“This very much is the beginning of the end.”
The cathedral is one of a number of larger sites opening across Lancashire and south Cumbria in the coming weeks which will allow thousands of people in the area to be vaccinated every week.
Amanda Doyle, the chief officer of Lancashire and Cumbria Health and Care System, said: “All our centres are vital. Lancashire’s been really hard hit all the way along in this pandemic.
“We’ve had really high levels of community infection which has resulted in enhanced restrictions from the start so it’s really important for people in Lancashire to get themselves protected, protect themselves from spreading it among their family and friends, reduce the pressure on our hospitals and actually let’s get back to normal.
“This is a key part of that.”