Mass vaccination centres around the country were filled with emotion as hundreds of patients received their Covid-19 jab, hopeful that it will bring them a step closer to seeing friends and family safely again.
Patients were said to be “emotional” and “quite teary” as they received their vaccinations in Stevenage, where a 93-year-old woman told others waiting to receive a jab: “Don’t be scared.”
Heather Gallagher, from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, said receiving her Covid vaccine was “no problem at all”.
Describing the first morning of operations, Caroline Shepherd, clinical expert for immunisations at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, said: “It’s full of excitement. It’s very busy, everybody’s happy to be here.
“It’s the NHS at its best, pulling people together, patients and public.”
Asked about the response from patients, she said: “They’ve been quite emotional actually, really pleased that there is some hope at the end of this tunnel, this very long tunnel for everybody.
“A few people got quite teary, saying ‘I’m really pleased to be here, thank you so much, we’re really grateful for the NHS’. It’s been really positive.”
Ms Gallagher, 93 and a former nurse with more than 30 years of experience, was brought to the centre by neighbour Mark Parry, 52, who has been supporting her throughout the pandemic, such as buying a weekly shop.
He said he had noticed the impact isolation has had on his neighbour over the past year.
Commenting on what the vaccine meant for Ms Gallagher’s future, he said: “She’s seen none of her friends for a year.”
He added: “This will really, really help. She’ll be able to go back to church again. She’ll be able to get her independence back, doing some shopping and basically start to see her friends, and I think that’s the most important thing mentally-wise for her, and I can’t wait for it to happen.”
Rita Passey, 81, received her vaccine at Birmingham’s Millennium Point on Monday, and said: “It was brilliant.
“I had to sit and wait for just a little while and have my information taken, and then just had the jab.
“It was really good – I couldn’t feel it. I am excited it is happening and people needn’t be worried about having it.”
Ms Passey, who has been shielding, said her immediate plans were “to get home and have a nice cup of tea”.
Selina Wilson, a 46-year-old occupational therapist from Redditch, Worcestershire, said after being vaccinated: “It feels great – I feel absolutely fine.”
Ms Wilson, who got her jab at the Birmingham site, said she has four grandchildren who she is now hoping to see more of – but for now, she was heading straight back to work.
She said: “We’re under pressure because I have a few colleagues off as well, so it’ll be back to work after this.”
Keith Garwood, an 80-year-old retired insurance claims manager from Ampthill in Bedfordshire, was injected with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab in Stevenage.
He said: “My own view is, it’s the first time in my life, I’m 80 years of age, where we’ve had something which has had so much impact on your life.
“You must have it, you must have it. If you don’t have it, your own life will be more restricted.”
Mr Garwood, who has spent the Covid-19 pandemic in isolation, expressed his frustration at people not following the Government’s rules.
He said: “It’s a question of following the guidance. You get a frustration when you see a lot of people, particularly on the television, who don’t.
“We’re fortunate, my wife and I, we’ve got a garden, we go out for a walk once a day.”
After receiving the vaccine, he said he felt “fine”.
Mr Garwood added: “As a logistical exercise, it’s been done extremely well. And the care, of course, with the NHS is excellent.”