The Queen has said her Covid-19 jab “didn’t hurt at all” as she encouraged those hesitant about vaccination to “think about other people rather than themselves”.
The head of state, who was inoculated in January, said after having the vaccine you felt “protected”, which she described as “important” during a video call with health leaders delivering the Covid-19 vaccine across the four nations.
Asked for “feedback” about her vaccination experience, she chuckled as she told the officials “it was quite harmless”.
During the conversation held on Tuesday, the head of state likened the coronavirus to a “plague” that has swept across the globe, and when a health leader said he wanted to “bottle” the community unity he had encountered the Queen suggested it was like the wartime spirit she experienced.
The Queen spoke to the four senior responsible officers overseeing the delivery of the vaccine in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hear about the collaborative effort which has passed the milestone of 18 million people vaccinated in the UK since the call was made.
She praised the vaccine rollout, describing its speed and the millions inoculated as “remarkable” and in a morale boost told the health leaders to “keep up the good work”.
Dr Emily Lawson, who is leading the vaccine deployment programme for the NHS in England, told the Queen: “We hope everyone who is offered the vaccine will take it up, because it is … all of our best chances to protect both the people who take up the vaccine, their families and their communities.”
The monarch replied: “Once you’ve had the vaccine you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected, which is I think very important.
“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.”
She added: “I think it is remarkable how quickly the whole thing has been done and so many people have had the vaccine already.”
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told an online conference, hosted by London’s Science Museum on Wednesday, figures suggested between 11-15% of people are vaccine-hesitant and it “skews toward the black and Afro-Caribbean community and other BAME communities”.
In an unusual move, Buckingham Palace, which rarely comments on the private health matters of the monarch, announced in January the 94-year-old head of state and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, had been vaccinated.
The Queen decided the information should be made public to prevent inaccuracies and further speculation.
Dr Lawson said they had received lots of feedback and asked the Queen about her experience of being vaccinated.
The head of state chuckled as she replied: “Well, as far as I can make out it was quite harmless. It was very quick, and I’ve had lots of letters from people who’ve been very surprised by how easy it was to get the vaccine.
She added: “It didn’t hurt at all.”
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have both received their vaccinations, with Camilla saying she “leapt for joy” after receiving her Covid jab.
The Duke of Cambridge, who like his father Charles contracted Covid, said on Monday he would be at the “front of the queue” for a vaccine to prove it is OK – but will “wait my turn”.
Dr Naresh Chada, deputy chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, gave his overview of the health crisis telling the Queen: “We know that this is probably the largest and most disruptive pandemic that we face globally, and within the UK, for over 100 years, and now there’ll be a continual battle of the vaccine versus the virus and its mutations.
“But I’ve got absolute faith, both in the medical research community – both here in the UK and globally – that we will keep one step ahead of the virus, and that will definitely lead to better times, for all of us.
“I think this is…very unusual. I mean it’s a bit like a plague, isn’t it?,” the Queen replied.
“Because it’s not only here that we’ve got the virus but it’s everywhere, so it’s a strange battle that everybody’s actually fighting.”
Derek Grieve, head of the Scottish Government’s Vaccinations Division, highlighted how residents from the Isle of Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, and the Coast Guard, local authority and volunteers had rallied together to set up a vaccination centre in a community hall in a matter of days.
He added: “So my lasting reflection ma’am would be if I could bottle this community spirit and use it, not just for the vaccination programme but for other things, I think the job would be done.”
The Queen said: “Wouldn’t it be nice.”
She added: “Well, having lived in the war. It’s very much like that, you know, when everybody had the same idea. And I think this has rather, sort of, inspired that – hasn’t it?”
After the call Dr Lawson described the Queen’s comments about her vaccine experience as an “incredibly important vote of confidence in the programme”.
She added: “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.”