The Church of England has published Churches as vaccination centres, v1, which to set out some of the logistical issues that churches might consider when deciding if their buildings could be appropriate centres. Some of the more important points are summarized in the bullet points below, although reference should be made to the whole document.
- Decisions on the setting up of vaccination centres are made by local NHS trusts, in consultation with local authorities and resilience forums, general practices, pharmacies, and other stakeholders. Most of the vaccination hubs being set up are expecting to process upwards of 1000 people a day – they need large spaces that are not needed for any other purposes, and that can be kept for the purposes of vaccinations for up to a year.
- The Royal College of Nursing has produced a guide to immunisation services and large-scale vaccination delivery during COVID-19.
- When considering if you might suggest part or all of a cathedral, church or associated buildings for use as a vaccination centre – or if approached as a possible venue – the following factors should be considered:
- the space needed;
- access to the venue for all visitors;
- accessibility of the venue, and whether the building had an access audit;
- the need to adapt the space for temporary changes which do not have an impact on historic fabric;
- the need for permissions. The advice on this critical factor is reproduced in full, below:
The new advice states:
“. The need for permissions. If you are in a position where your church or an associated building is being considered, you will need to ensure you get a formal agreement between the PCC and whoever will run the centre. The NHS has allocated mobilization funding via regional teams to support deployment. A licence or hiring agreement should be agreed that includes information on fees and payment, insurance and liability arrangements, as well as agreement over access to and use of the space.
Churches and consecrated church halls will require a faculty, whether or not a lease is granted, as this will be a secular use rather than use of the church as a place of worship. However, Chancellors may issue Additional Matters Orders disapplying the need for faculties in their dioceses but the position will, in each case, need to be checked with the DAC. By virtue of emergency planning provisions which came into force in April 2020 and/or the transitional provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020, it is unlikely that planning permission would be required, at least up to August 2021. However, the emergency provisions are currently due to end on 31st December 2020 and new Use Classes provisions will be issued with effect from August 2021, so the position should be checked with any partnering health authority and the local authority.”
The Guidance concludes:
“If your church is felt suitable and you have been asked to progress setting up a centre by the NHS then the first port of call should be your Diocesan Advisory Committee or Archdeacon, who can help to advise you.
Cathedrals should contact the Secretariat of the CFCE, and they will work with your Fabric Advisory Committee to get you the right advice and get appropriate permissions in place.”
It is reported that St Christopher’s church, Haslemere, Surrey, is to become a vaccination centre from 15th December, and for four months will receive up to 300 people per day, including some of the most medically vulnerable groups. The church was approached by the NHS given the building satisfied many of the requirements necessary for a vaccination centre. St Christopher´s is one of the two churches that form the Parish of Haslemere; from next week it will effectively be “taken out of worship ministry” and will remain so throughout the duration of the vaccine roll-out scheme.
The Church of England has also issued COVID-19 Vaccines update December 2020, v.1, a “short briefing note [which] addresses some questions that are likely to emerge”. Whilst more useful in a pastoral context, it does address the questions of: “Will we able to stop wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing etc?” [Answer, ‘No’]; and “Should parishes offer their church buildings or church halls as vaccination centres?” [Answer, ‘While some church properties might be suitable, many will not’].
Importantly, it also address the issue as to whether the vaccines employed aborted foetal material in their development, and concurs with the conclusions of the Pontifical Academy for Life, recently endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, which concludes that the morality of voluntary abortion and the morality of using aborted foetal material are not conjoined its belied that “all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion”.
The Association of English Cathedrals (AEC) web site carries an article Cathedrals at the Heart of the Fight, which indicates the scale of the operations which are envisaged:
“Cathedrals are preparing to open their doors as Covid-19 vaccination centres to be at the heart of the fight against the pandemic across the country. Lichfield and Blackburn cathedrals are among Church of England cathedrals which have offered their buildings up to local health providers to help with the mass planned vaccination programme against Covid-19 to protect the vulnerable and keep people safe. Both Lichfield and Blackburn are currently in talks to arrange facilities and appropriate dates and times…
…Guildford Cathedral was turned into a drive-through clinic last month to immunize 800 local people against this year’s influenza and is among other cathedrals that have offered their buildings as safe spaces for vaccination programmes. Blackburn with Darwen local authority area has seen the second highest coronavirus infection figures in the country after Oldham and has been in local lockdown since July. Blackburn Cathedral has worked hard to play its part in supporting those more vulnerable in the community throughout the pandemic.
Blackburn Cathedral offered its services to the local authorities in March and is currently in talks with the local health care provider and could become a vaccination centre as soon as December… If the plan at Blackburn goes ahead, the local health care provider, Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria will turn the Undercroft and Crypt area of the city centre landmark into a vaccination centre for an estimated 12-14 month period from December. This will enable it to offer vaccinations 12 hours a day, seven days a week to up to 1,700 people per week.”