LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip received their first coronavirus vaccine doses on Saturday, Buckingham Palace said in a rare medical statement apparently aimed to show royal support for the vaccination effort.
The 94-year-old queen and Philip, 99, received their jabs by a royal household doctor at Windsor Castle. Their ages put them among the high-risk groups that are being prioritized during the country’s vaccine rollout, which has seen 1.5 million people receive at least one dose of a vaccine.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have today received Covid-19 vaccinations.”
It is highly unusual for the palace to release private medical details, but a palace spokeswoman told The Washington Post that “a decision was taken by Her Majesty to let it be known to prevent inaccuracies and further speculation.”
Public health experts hope that such a move will persuade vaccine skeptics at a time of soaring distrust in leaders and institutions.
Penny Ward, a pharmaceutical researcher at King’s College London, previously told The Post: “I know my mother would do anything the queen did.”
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that he was “delighted” by the news. “We are defeating this virus jab by jab,” he said.
The palace spokeswoman would not comment on which vaccine the royals received. Britain has granted approval for three vaccines, although only two are currently being administered: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the homegrown Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Friday, Britain granted approval to a third vaccine developed by U.S.-based Moderna, but supplies won’t be available until the spring.
While the palace normally does not comment on medical matters like this, it’s also not unheard of. In the 1950s, the palace let it be known that Prince Charles and Princess Anne had received the polio vaccine.
Last year, Charles, the heir to the throne, tested positive for coronavirus. His eldest son, Prince William, also caught it around the same time, although it wasn’t publicized. The Sun tabloid, which first reported the story, said that the diagnoses was kept secret at the time because William “didn’t want to alarm the nation.”
The queen and duke are currently living at Windsor Castle amid a lockdown seeking to curb a surging outbreak. On Friday, Britain recorded 1,325 daily deaths, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began.