Twickenham Rugby Stadium has been turned into a major walk-in vaccine centre in a drive to try to boost vaccinations against coronavirus as cases of the Indian variant surge.
Up to 15,000 first dose jabs are being made available for those in the local area who have not yet been vaccinated.
The event – called Let’s Tackle Covid – aims to increase the number of vaccinations as cases of the Indian coronavirus variant surge in Hounslow, west London.
A spokesman for Twickenham Stadium said it was “proud” the venue would be supporting one of “the biggest walk-in vaccination events” in England.
At the moment people who are aged over 30 are being called up for a vaccination in England.
Anyone who is eligible for their first dose can walk in without an appointment but by 2.30pm event organisers said that anyone over 18 would be able to get an injection as they did not want any of the vaccine to be wasted.
Scotland international rugby union player Rory Hutchinson was among those who got a vaccination at Twickenham Stadium.
The 25-year-old Northampton Saints player told the PA news agency “for me it is the right thing to do and that is why I am here today”.
He said: “It was a really smooth process. I thought they were very professional. It was easy to find. I walked straight in and got my vaccine done. Then just had to wait a short while to make sure I was OK.
“I think we have been through a really tough time recently and hopefully we are on the mend now. I am just doing what I can to support that.”
Student and sports fan Flo Flake-Parsons said it was “quite exciting” to get her jab in a place “where there has been so many happy memories”.
The 24-year-old of Chiswick, west London, said there were no queues by the time she got her afternoon injection.
Saying it was “quite a relief” to the get the vaccination, she added: “It has been a really rubbish time for everyone and this is a good step back towards normality.”
Dr Genevieve Small, who is a Harrow GP and the clinical lead for the north west London vaccination programme, described the Twickenham event which had been organised in a short space of time as a service which had been “something quite powerful” for a range of people.
She said: “We have been able to provide this facility on the day for people who perhaps knew they were allowed to get the vaccine but had not come around to sorting it out, or who have just been more spontaneous, or who had previously questions about the programme and now feel ready to come forward for the vaccination.
“There is, of course, a want (or a need) to make sure we are protecting the areas that are seeing more cases of the new variant.
“We have been given the opportunity (to do this). We have been given the vaccine and we have gone for it.”
Over 100 vaccinators, which includes a mixture of GPs and nurses, were on duty to hand out the jabs.
Thousands of people had queued up around the rugby pitch as the doors opened in order to make their way into the stadium concourse which had been turned into a vaccination hub.
Pippa Nightingale, the chief nurse for north-west London, encouraged people “to take some time out of your day and come and see us” during the fine bank holiday weather.
Kelly O’Neill, Hounslow Council’s director of public health, said: “Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid-19 and we encourage all our local community to have their vaccine as soon as they are eligible.”
Twickenham Stadium venue director Mark Lynch said: “We are proud to have supported the NHS for over a year during the pandemic, first with a test centre in Twickenham Stadium car park and now to set up this mass vaccination facility in record time.
“It’s taken less than a week to turn around and I’d like to thank all 600 stadium and NHS employees involved for their hard work to make this happen.
“Like rugby clubs across the country, we feel it’s important for us to do our bit to support our local communities.”
The event has been organised by the local NHS trust in partnership with Hounslow Council and supported by England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU).