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Science Museum reopens as NHS vaccination centre a year after closure due to COVID-19

On Thursday 11 March, Jean Adkins became the first person to receive a vaccine at the Science Museum, which has reopened as an NHS vaccination centre enabling thousands of Londoners to receive their COVID-19 vaccination in the historic surroundings of the museum. The NHS vaccination centre opens a year after the Science Museum first closed due to COVID-19 and as preparations are underway for a new coronavirus-focused exhibit which will go on display once the museum reopens. 

Jean Adkins becomes the first person to receive the coronavirus vaccine at the Science Museum NHS Vaccination Centre © Science Museum Group
Jean Adkins becomes the first person to receive the coronavirus vaccine at the Science Museum NHS Vaccination Centre

To mark the opening of the vaccination centre, Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, welcomed Dr Emily Lawson, Chief Commercial Officer and vaccine deployment lead for NHS England and Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to the museum, where they witnessed vaccinations taking place and saw the historic empty vials of COVID-19 vaccines used for the first mass vaccinations worldwide, which were kindly donated to the Science Museum Group Collection by NHS England. 

Sir Ian Blatchford, Pippa Nightingale and Secretary of State for DCMS Oliver Dowden in front of a sign for the NHS Vaccination Centre at the Science Museum © Science Museum Group
Sir Ian Blatchford, Pippa Nightingale and Secretary of State for DCMS Oliver Dowden at the vaccination centre

Thousands of individuals are expected to be vaccinated each week by NHS medical professionals, supported by staff from the museum. Vaccinations will take place in Special Exhibition Gallery 1, a vast temporary exhibition space where thousands of artefacts, including a nuclear fusion reactor, historic robots and the spacecraft flown by the first woman in space, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, have previously been displayed. 

Natasha McEnroe shows Secretary of State for DCMS Oliver Dowden lectern signs from government daily briefings reading ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’, ‘Hands, Face, Space’ and ‘Stay Home, Control the Virus, Save Lives’. © Science Museum Group
Keeper of Medicine Natasha McEnroe and Secretary of State for DCMS Oliver Dowden with empty vials and government lectern signs

Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, said: ‘It’s wonderful to see part of the Science Museum repurposed for this country's most pressing task in a generation, vaccinating the adult population. Uniquely, our museum can both tell the story of how vaccination has saved millions of lives, and also play a part in ensuring vaccines protect the nation from COVID-19. It is an extraordinary sensation to be collecting and living history all at once.’

Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said: 'It was brilliant to see Londoners getting their vaccines in one of the capital’s much-loved museums. As we continue to stay at home, every dose delivered takes us closer to a time when we can browse galleries and visit exhibitions again. 

'When the Science Museum reopens, visitors will be able to see the vial from the first COVID-19 vaccine administered in the UK as a reminder of our huge national effort to save lives and protect the NHS.

'Until then, we’ll keep supporting the hard work of our arts organisations across the country through the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, with an extra £300 million to help venues reopen and recover this year.'

Dr Lawson recently spoke with Roger Highfield, Science Director at the Science Museum Group, for the latest post in the hugely popular coronavirus blog series. The interview is available to read on the Science Museum Group blog

The NHS vaccination centre opens at the Science Museum exactly a year after the World Health Organisation first declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic.

The Science Museum is the first national museum in the UK to host a vaccination centre and support the NHS mass vaccination programme in this way. Providing this vital public service is an important part of the Science Museum Group’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has included producing engaging learning resources for home-schooling, hosting virtual talks on climate change and identifying objects for our COVID-19 Collecting project.

The empty vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines used for the first vaccinations worldwide were donated by NHS England to the Science Museum Group Collection. The vials, COVID-19 testing kits and signage from the Government’s daily briefings will form part of a new COIVD-19 display in Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries – the world’s largest galleries devoted to the history of medicine – when the Science Museum reopens in May 2021 (restrictions permitting).  

Once the museum reopens, the public and those visiting for vaccinations will be able to study the vials, alongside a timeline of key objects from the history of vaccination and displays about other infectious diseases such as ebola, polio and the plague.

Prototype medical devices, coronavirus-themed greetings cards, homemade masks and many other items – including some from the vaccination centre itself – will also join the collection, providing a permanent record for future generations of medical, scientific, industrial, cultural and personal responses to the outbreak and its impact on society.

ENDS

Part of the Science Museum Group