The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to the “hard work” of the military in supporting the vaccine rollout to the elderly and vulnerable.
More than 5,000 members of the Armed Forces are helping to establish and operate vaccination centres across the UK and Overseas Territories, bringing hope to those shielding – some for almost a year.
During a video call with five military personnel taking part in the vaccine rollout, the duke was told how those venturing outside for the first time in months for their inoculations put on their “best dresses” or excitedly talked non-stop.
William thanked the group for their efforts, saying: “I really appreciate all the hard work you guys are doing at the moment. It’s making a huge difference.”
He added: “I hope we come out of this lockdown very soon and a bit more social contact and life can come back to normal as soon as possible.”
Lieutenant Alexandra Merisoiu, of 4 Armoured Medical Regiment, told the duke she was part of a Vaccination Quick Reaction Force – mobilised at short notice to help deliver inoculations.
She added: “It’s quite a privilege to work with the NHS and to be part of such a national project.”
The second in line to the throne asked: “Are some of them a little bit unsure of, one, being in a social setting having been inside for so long but also about the jab and things like that?”
Private Jack Morelli, of the Army’s 16 Medical Regiment, told him: “Very rarely. I think the bigger thing is trying to move them along and dampen their enthusiasm if anything. Because so many of them have been cooped up inside the house for so long. They want to just chat you ear off for ages and it’s absolutely lovely.”
The serviceman – who has been working at vaccination centres in Southend, Peterborough and Bury St Edmunds – offered a word of caution.
“You talk to some of these elderly people…and they’ve been shielding from the very beginning and you just think about what a long period of time that is at this point,” he said.
“And you start to emphasise even with the vaccine it doesn’t mean it’s a free for all, everyone can get out of lockdown. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
William, 38, hosted the video call from Sandringham on Wednesday last week, and asked Private Abigail Render, of 5 Medical Regiment, what challenges she faced.
She replied: “I think it’s trying to reassure people. You get two ends of the spectrum. Some people are putting their best dresses on and they are coming in and they are like ‘it’s my first day out in so and so’ and then other people are like ‘I’m really not sure about having this vaccine’.
“It’s just sitting down with them and reassuring them, like this is a step that needs to be taken for us to return to some sort of normality at all.”