Vaccinations at Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral vaccination centre - 16thJan2021- photo by Ash Mills

The Very Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury explains how AIM member Salisbury Cathedral got involved with the vaccination effort.

When the news about the availability of vaccines first broke, I contacted the NHS and said that if we were able to assist with the programme’s implementation then we would do so. I am delighted that they responded positively. The events of the past year will go down in national and world history, and to have made a small contribution to the war against the virus has been a privilege.

The lockdown required us to close to visitors, and, to support the Government’s ‘Stay Home’ public health message, our worship has been livestreamed only since early January. That has allowed us to dedicate parts of the Cathedral to the vaccination programme. The South Transept has become the place where the jabs are administered, fridges for vaccine storage were installed in one of the adjoining chapels and the Cathedral’s nave is used as the recovery area, where patients wait after they have been injected.

The Cathedral team have responded magnificently. Many of the staff were surprised by how moving it is to be part of it all, particularly in the early days when hope was scarce, and it was the first time many of the very elderly and vulnerable had been outside their homes for almost a year. Our own staff welcome patients as they arrive, guiding them into the building and handing them on to the NHS team. Our colleagues have been pleased to help with this massive historical effort.

In addition, our two organists have been putting in ten-hour days (five hours apiece) to cover vaccination sessions, which has required some stamina. Between them they have developed a sympathetic repertoire, which has involved branching out into showtunes and popular melodies. The music has been hugely appreciated by those attending the sessions and has done much to create a tranquil, non-anxious atmosphere.

We will continue to serve as a vaccination hub, but it will be wonderful to open to worship and visitors again and we hope that some of our vaccination recipients will be among them. They have visited the Cathedral, perhaps for the first time or for the first time in many years and have found that it welcomes them and is here for them. We move ahead with caution though. Being part of the NHS fight against the virus has brought home the scale of the problem we face, and our responsibility to help manage it.

Image credit: Salisbury Cathedral vaccination centre, 16 January 2021, photo by Ash Mills.