William visits local vaccination centre to praise work of staff and volunteers

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent
·4-min read

The Duke of Cambridge has said he would be at the “front of the queue” for a coronavirus jab to prove it is OK – but will “wait my turn”.

William’s comments came during his first official in-person event of the year – a visit to his local Covid-19 vaccination centre at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange, a few miles from his Norfolk home.

The duke, who contracted coronavirus last year, walked through the centre, stopping to speak to staff and volunteers at each stage of the process, as well as people receiving their jabs.

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 22, 2021
William chats to staff and volunteers during his visit to the vaccination centre in King’s Lynn (Arthur Edwards/The Sun

He asked vaccinator Debbie Rudd, 50, whether the patients were nervous, adding: “I’d be at the front of the queue if I could, just to prove that it’s OK, but I have to wait my turn.”

William kept his coronavirus diagnosis last spring a secret, with the Sun newspaper, which first revealed it, reporting that the duke did not want to alarm the nation at a time when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seriously ill with Covid-19 and the Prince of Wales was also recovering from the virus.

William’s visit comes amid an eventful period for the monarchy, with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stripped of their patronages after the couple confirmed they had permanently stepped down as working royals.

And the Duke of Edinburgh remains in hospital after feeling unwell and being admitted to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London last week for “observation and rest”.

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 22, 2021
The Duke of Cambridge speaks to Geoff Smyth, 66, as he waits to be vaccinated (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

At the end of his tour of the inoculation hub, William was asked about Philip.

He replied: “Yes, he’s OK – they’re keeping an eye on him”, and gave a wink.

The vaccination centre at King’s Lynn opened on February 1 and has delivered thousands of Covid jabs every week since.

Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust delivers the four large-scale vaccination centres across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk and Waveney, alongside a number of GP and pharmacy-led sites.

During his visit, the duke also hailed new research suggesting that the vaccines are reducing hospital admissions by a significant amount.

“The studies that have come out today talk about 90% to 95%, don’t they?” he said.

“That’s pretty good, isn’t it? We are a little bit sceptical at times but it’s good news.”

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 22, 2021
William chats to a member of the team at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange vaccination centre (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

As he made his way around the centre, William showed particular interest in the process of drawing up the vaccine, asking nurse Margot Smith, 52, how it is done and noting that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is easier to store than the Pfizer drug.

Ms Smith showed him how she drew 0.5 millilitre of the vaccine into a vial and then transferred it into a syringe.

“How many doses are in a vial?” William asked, adding: “You get through a lot of needles, I imagine.”

When told Ms Smith was a school immuniser, he said: “You’re probably very used to this work, and on this scale – just getting the job done.”

He asked if schools are now getting behind with their own vaccination programmes, adding: “Will you have to play catch-up on that as well?

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 22, 2021
William wore a face mask for his visit (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

“There’s nothing like a challenge. Honestly, you guys have overcome every challenge that’s been thrown at you. Brilliant work.”

On arrival, the duke made a beeline for patient Geoff Smyth, 66, from Hunstanton, who was waiting to get his jab.

Taking a seat, William asked: “Are you going to go next? I bet you just want to get it done.”

He inquired how Mr Smyth had been keeping through lockdown and whether he had managed to keep himself busy.

“It’s all a bit weird though, isn’t it?” he admitted. “A bit odd.”

Finally, the duke met volunteers Fliss and Stewart Davidson, from Downham Market, who usually run an event photography business.

Mrs Davidson, 54, said: “We’ve been volunteering for around a month. We love it. We’re really enjoying doing it and we’re glad to be able to help out.

“The atmosphere is so positive, it’s all smiles and laughter and goodwill.”

William asked how many days they had been working at the centre, and added: “It’s amazing how adaptable we can be when we need to be. It’s made us reassess our priorities. When the chips are down…”