The Mayor of London was among thousands present at Stamford Bridge today as our home stadium transformed into a pop-up vaccination centre once again in support of the drive to administer booster jabs in the capital.
Sadiq Khan spoke to NHS staff, volunteers and those who had come for first, second or booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with appointments fully booked for most of the morning and walk-ins adding to the steady flow of people coming to bolster their immune protection.
It followed previous events at the Bridge earlier in the year, a result of dialogue between the club and the NHS, with the original suggestion coming from Imperial Healthcare medical director Professor Julian Redhead, who was back at the stadium lending a hand in the vaccination effort.
‘When I’m in the A&E department, which is where I work as a doctor, it’s really distressing when you see patients coming in very unwell with Covid,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, the vast majority of those people are unvaccinated so I know from practical, personal experience that the vaccine really does make a difference.’
Khan also paid tribute to the club’s assistance in providing a venue and operational support, as well as the willingness of Londoners to come forward to play their part.
‘One of the best things I’ve seen today is the queues of people outside here at Stamford Bridge, not queuing to come and watch a match but queuing to get a life-saving jab,’ the mayor of London said.
‘I’ve just met a 12-year-old Chelsea fan coming here to receive his first dose, his mum receiving her booster, and what we’re seeing is thousands of Londoners receiving life-saving vaccines and boosters because Chelsea have opened their doors again. On behalf of London, as the mayor of this great city, I want to say thank you to Chelsea.
‘I woke up this morning to some pretty scary figures in relation to the spread of this virus and how bad things are across the city but I’ve just been awestruck by the great work taking place here. It means that I’m now leaving optimistic and hopeful that we can make a difference.’
The first visitors came flooding in at 10am and doors remained open for eight hours, with over 5,000 vaccinations given to local residents throughout the day.
The early queues snaked down the Fulham Road but efficient organisation and swift work inside the Canoville Suite at the 55 designated vaccination stations ensured those in line did not have long to wait. While they did, a Salvation Army band provided the entertainment with music and Christmas carols.
Pippa Nightingale, Chief Nursing Officer for Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, has been the driving force behind all three vaccination pop-ups held at Stamford Bridge and she explained why the jabs, particularly the booster, are so important in response to the new Omicron variant.
‘We’re aiming to vaccinate 10,000 people to keep this area and this population safe,’ she said. ‘What’s really important now is that everybody needs three vaccines to protect themselves against the new variant.
‘It’s far more transmissible, far more contagious and it’s needing three vaccines, so everybody needs to come forward. We have 26 different pop-ups across north-west London today and another at Wembley tomorrow.
‘The queues have been quite large outside but everyone is in good spirits and doing the right thing by coming forward and spending time to get their vaccine to protect their friends, family and the wider population.
‘Chelsea are such good friends to us, such good supporters of the vaccine programme and the hospital at Chelsea and Westminster. You need big spaces at venues like this and areas where people can queue safely so we’re so grateful for the club’s support once again.’