Rule #1 of video call etiquette: do not — I repeat: do not — talk over Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen virtually met on Tuesday with the health leaders who are driving the UK’s COVID-19 immunisation programme. She spoke about the vaccine she received with her husband, Prince Philip, in January 2021 — words received with exuberant, polite nodding.
“It was very quick, and I’ve had lots of letters from people who have been very surprised at how easy it was to get the vaccine,” the Queen said. “And the jab – it didn’t hurt at all.”
The 94-year-old monarch was joined on the call by the senior officials in charge of the vaccine rollout in each of the UK’s home nations: Dr. Emily Lawson, the chief commercial officer from NHS England; Dr. Naresh Chada, deputy chief medical officer for Northern Ireland; Derek Grieve, head of vaccinations in Scotland; and Gillian Richardson, deputy chief medical officer for Wales.
She reflected on her experience as “quite harmless” — and urged people to put others first when considering whether to have the jab as soon as they were offered it.
“Once you’ve had the vaccine, you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected, which is I think very important,” she said on the video call. “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 UK government has faced immense criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being an island nation, the UK still has one of the worst death rates per capita in the world for the virus. But when it comes to vaccinations, it’s immunised more people than any other country in Europe, and more than Germany, France, Italy, and Spain combined.
In total, the UK has given almost 20 million vaccines, with over a quarter of the population having been given a first dose. It plans to have offered a first dose to the 32 million people it's designated as within its top nine priority groups by April 15, and to every adult by the end of July.
At the same time, the UK says that it is the largest donor to COVAX, a scheme that aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses to low-income countries in 2021. It’s leveraged over $1 billion to the facility, including £548 million from its UK aid budget, the funds spent by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) to tackle extreme poverty and its root causes.
The success of the rollout programme was called a “remarkable” achievement by the Queen on the video call.
Yaaas Queen (Elizabeth II) ✨ pic.twitter.com/uJhH7j2SPl— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) February 26, 2021
Royal family fans might be relieved to hear that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall — Charles and Camilla — have also just been vaccinated. The Duchess reportedly said she "leapt for joy" after receiving her jab. Meanwhile, Prince William, 38, has said he would happily “wait his turn” for a vaccine.
Meanwhile, the Countess of Wessex — a title afforded as daughter-in-law to the Queen, who otherwise goes by Sophie — has been volunteering in a vaccine centre in London with St John Ambulance, a nonprofit that usually teaches people first aid training.
The Queen agreed on the video call that it would be wonderful to hold onto the community spirit developed during the pandemic. She said it felt "very much like" the unity she experienced during the Second World War.