Prince William is paying tribute to the medical staffers and volunteers who, he says, are helping make a "massive difference" to peoples' lives.
The vaccine is being rolled out as the coronavirus pandemic has taken 87,000 lives in the U.K. – made worse by a new, more virulent strain of the disease.
William spent some of Thursday talking with frontline workers and volunteers from across the U.K. via a video call, praising their dedication and effort to help the most vulnerable people, who are receiving the much-needed vaccine first.
"I want to say a huge congratulations to everyone involved in the vaccination program because it looks tremendous, it really does," William said. "I know what a massive difference it is going to make to everyone. It is also worth pointing out I think that this isn't something that happens really easily and that everyone has access to around the world. This is because we have a world-leading NHS and we have the right people, research and development here."
Hundreds of vaccination sites and hospital hubs have been established across the U.K. to administer the vaccine. During this week, NHS England opened the first seven large vaccination centers helping those who are most at risk from COVID-19 to access vaccines for free, regardless of where they live.
William's office at Kensington Palace says the prince and the frontline staff discussed how an effective vaccine is the best way to protect people — and how there is a continuing need for everybody to be vigilant and play their part in protecting their loved ones and the NHS. Among those on the call was Jake Plummer, who's a volunteer from the charity Saints Foundation volunteer and is working as a flow manager at University Southampton Hospital. He said in a statement afterward, "It's been a privilege to be a part of the vaccine rollout – in my role I've been able to provide that friendly face that people need whilst they're getting vaccinated, especially as it can be a daunting experience for some."
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Dr. Nikki Kanani, NHS England Medical Director for Primary Care, said in a statement released after the call: "Everyone on the frontline, volunteers and NHS staff have all pulled together and worked so tremendously hard to ensure the vaccine rollout is a success, and it is fantastic that the Duke of Cambridge has taken the time to boost morale for all those across the UK who are so integral to this effort."
"We need to continue to be vigilant and ask that everybody abides by the restrictions in the coming weeks, and whether you have had a vaccine or not, please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives – that means staying at home as much as you can, and following the 'hands, face, space' guidance when you can't."
News of his call comes a day after William and Kate Middleton were on a joint call to hear about the grief and suffering felt by first responders during the COVID-19 crisis.
Those on the call also included Dr. Helen Alefounder, a GP at Rysseldene Surgery in Colwyn Bay; Dalene Steele, a nurse and clinical lead on COVID-19 vaccinations in care homes across Ayrshire and Arran; and Bronagh Hegarty, a pharmacist at Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry.