London, Feb 26 (PTI) Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has said that receiving her vaccine to protect against COVID-19 'didn't hurt at all' and encouraged those hesitant about getting jabbed to think about how it would help others in preventing the spread of the deadly virus.
In a rare reference to private health matters, the 94-year-old monarch backed the National Health Service (NHS) led vaccination programme in the UK during a video call earlier this week with health officials coordinating the rollout across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
She and husband, 99-year-old Prince Philip, received their first of two doses last month.
'Once you've had the vaccine you have a feeling of, you know, you're protected, which is I think very important,” said the Queen, in reference to her jab.
'As far as I could make out it was quite harmless. It was very quick, and I've had lots of letters from people who have been very surprised by how easy it was to get the vaccine. And the jab – it didn't hurt at all,' she said.
Addressing some concerns about the uptake of vaccines and reluctance among certain groups, the monarch added: 'I think the other thing is, that it is obviously difficult for people if they've never had a vaccine... But they ought to think about other people rather than themselves.' The video interaction, posted on the Royal Family’s social media pages, came as UK Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said figures suggest 11-15 per cent of people were vaccine-hesitant, with some ethnic minority communities among that category.
Some studies have also found disparities between poorer and wealthier areas.
Dr Emily Lawson, who is leading the vaccine deployment programme for the NHS in England and was on the call on Tuesday, said the Queen's comments about her vaccine experience were an 'incredibly important vote of confidence in the programme'.
'We just want to make sure we create the conditions where everybody feels able to take up the offer of a vaccination when they're called. And Her Majesty offering her view on that is a huge boost to our confidence and I hope to confidence more broadly in the programme,' she said.
More than 18 million people have now had a first vaccine dose, equivalent to one in three adults in the UK, with July 31 as the government target to cover all adults.
The vaccine rollout – currently involving the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs – has entered its next phase, after everyone in the top four priority groups was offered a jab. Many areas are now offering vaccine appointments to over-60s, adult carers of disabled people and younger adults in care homes. PTI AK AMS AKJ AMS