Chelsea Pensioners offered 'early Christmas present' of Covid vaccine

23 December 2020, 21:07

By Megan White

Around 300 Chelsea Pensioners have been offered the coronavirus vaccine, calling it "the best early Christmas present we could hope for".

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was brought to veterans living at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, on Wednesday.

The vaccinations were carried out by Pippa Nightingale, chief nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who called it a "real honour".

D-Day veteran Bob Sullivan said he was pleased to be "one of the lucky ones" to get the jab and that he was looking forward to being able to mix with family in the future.

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The 98-year-old was applauded by staff after he received the vaccine.

He said: "I was pleased that I was... as are all the pensioners, one of the lucky ones to be vaccinated.

"We've been very well looked after by the people who run this hospital and I think I'm very fortunate to be here."

D-Day veteran and Chelsea Pensioner Bob (Robert) James Sullivan, 98, is injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
D-Day veteran and Chelsea Pensioner Bob (Robert) James Sullivan, 98, is injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Picture: PA

He added: "This year has changed life as we know it, causing uncertainty and worry.

"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."

It forms part of a rollout which will see elderly residents in care homes in England with more than 50 beds offered the vaccine over the coming weeks.

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Ms Nightingale said: "It feels really emotional. It's been such a challenging year for everybody in the NHS, so it feels really emotional to actually be doing something positive.

"We've got to all get together now and deliver this to the whole of our population in the next few months."

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.

Mr Sullivan receives the vaccine from Pippa Nightingale, Chief Nurse at the nearby Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
Mr Sullivan receives the vaccine from Pippa Nightingale, Chief Nurse at the nearby Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Picture: PA

"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."

The rollout into care homes is being led by GPs across the country.

Practising GP and NHS director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: "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."

Minister for Care Helen Whately added: "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."