'Time to do it': Chelsea Pensioners roll up sleeves of famous red uniforms for Covid booster shot

Chelsea Pensioner, John Byrne, says Covid-19 booster jabs ‘best thing for the country’

Chelsea Pensioners have joined more than a million people in getting a Covid-19 booster shot since the launch of the campaign in England.

John Byrne, 70, was delighted to receive the jab as he rolled up his sleeve in the grand state apartments of the Royal Hospital Chelsea on Tuesday.

“Thank you, that was brilliant!” he told the nurse after she had administered a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

He said he felt “good” about getting his booster and that it was “time to do it”, having received his second dose in March.

Mr Byrne, who served in the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and later with the 37 Signal Regiment, including in Afghanistan in 2007, joked that he was ex-Army and therefore not scared of needles.

Asked what he would tell anyone having doubts about getting the booster, he said: “Don’t worry at all. Have the booster jab. It can only do good… It can only be the best thing for the country.”

Mr Byrne said moving into the Royal Hospital Chelsea three years ago after losing his wife turned his life around.

While the pandemic had been “hard”, he praised the home’s governor for treating the lockdown “like a military operation”.

“Had he not done that we would’ve lost a lot of people,” Mr Byrne said.

Bob Sullivan was the first of the Chelsea Pensioners to be vaccinated. Credit: PA

Vanessa Sloane, deputy chief nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, told Mr Byrne that booster vaccinations were “likely” going to be an annual programme as she prepared to administer his jab.

Many of Mr Byrne’s fellow residents at the retirement home have already received their booster jabs, which are delivered six months after the second dose.

“They’ve been great, so organised, of course it’s military precision as you expect, but they’ve been incredibly welcoming and great fun for our team as we’ve gone around to vaccinate them,” Ms Sloane said.

“[It’s] really important to have that third vaccine just to make sure you’re boosting the immunity of the population as much as we can,” she said. “We’ve had some really, really sick people and this is our best chance of getting out of this.”

NHS England’s online portal opened on September 21, with a further one million invites being sent to eligible people last week, including those who are clinically vulnerable, health and care workers and people aged 50 and over.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “It is terrific to see the enthusiasm for booster vaccines, with the Chelsea Pensioners joining more than one million people who have already booked in for their vital top-up dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“An incredible 80 million doses have been given since the vaccination programme started, and the booster rollout builds on that protection as we head into winter – I would urge everyone to come forward for their booster vaccine when they are invited, to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

The health service is also inviting 16 to 49-year-olds with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe symptoms and adults who have household contact with immunosuppressed individuals to book a top-up jab.