An Organ Recital, With a Coronavirus Shot

SALISBURY, England – One Saturday afternoon, 83-year-old Margaret Drabble sat under the towering arches of Salisbury Cathedral, swinging her legs under her chair like a school girl.

Minutes earlier, she had received her first shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus in a booth near the cathedral entrance. But that wasn’t why she looked so happy, she said. Instead, it was the elaborate organ music that gently echoed inside the cathedral.

“Oh, I love the organ,” said Drabble, a former school teacher. “It’s so beautiful, it makes me cry almost every time I hear it.”

“I’ve always wanted to play it,” she said wistfully. Then she looked at the 4,000 pipes on the organ outside the cathedral and sat up straight to listen. She had been told to sit for 15 minutes to make sure she did not develop an allergic reaction.

Britain is in the middle of a mass vaccination campaign trying to escape the spread of the virus as a new variant discovered in the land floods soars. So far, around 6.3 million people have received a first dose, just under 10 percent of the population.

The UK’s National Health Service has signed contracts with dozens of large venues to serve as vaccination centers. 33 new locations were announced on Monday, including an Oxford football stadium, several sports centers and a concert arena.

Patients have been receiving the vaccine in Salisbury Cathedral since January 16. There are vaccinations for around 1,200 people per day twice a week. Sessions last approximately 12 hours and most of the time, David Halls and John Challenger, the cathedral organists, provide a musical backdrop that ranges from iconic hymns to fairground tunes to euphoric classical works.

This makes the cathedral one of the few places in the country where live music can currently be heard. With much of Britain under lockdown restrictions for the third time, theaters, museums and concert halls have had to close. But in recent weeks, the UK government’s race to vaccinate its people has given some cultural venues a surprising lease on life.

Some – like the Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds in the north of England and the Hertford Theater north of London – have become vaccination centers that take advantage of their large, well-ventilated rooms and crowd skills. Visitors now line up to get recordings instead of looking at showcases or singing along to musicals.

At least one well-known London attraction, the Science Museum, is under consideration, according to local authorities, and even circus operators have offered their big tops.

Salisbury Cathedral is of course more of a religious than a cultural place. In addition to organ accompaniment, anyone who was inoculated into the 13th-century Gothic building in south-west England can also marvel at its architecture and view several works of art spread across the site, including a giant reclining figure by sculptor Henry Moore and a tapestry of the contemporary British artist Grayson Perry.

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Answers to your vaccine questions

If I live in the US, when can I get the vaccine?

While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help.

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Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries have approved a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible that people spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild or no symptoms. Scientists don’t yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.

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Yeah, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from contracting Covid-19. However, the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it without experiencing a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively when the vaccines are introduced. In the meantime, self-vaccinated people need to think of themselves as potential spreaders.

Will it hurt What are the side effects?

The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection is no different from the ones you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. However, some of them have experienced short-lived symptoms, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last a day. It is possible that people will have to plan to take a day off or go to school after the second shot. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system’s encounter with the vaccine and a strong response that ensures lasting immunity.

Will mRNA vaccines change my genes?

No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given point in time, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can last a few days at most before it is destroyed.

Few visitors watched it on Saturday, but some listened carefully to the music.

“I live locally and we all said, ‘Have you been to the organ concert?’” Said Pam Scoop, 86. “We don’t say, ‘Have you been for a push?’” She added with a British term for a shot. Then she closed her eyes and listened as Halls played the uplifting Bach chorale “Jesus, joy in human desire”.

Nicholas Papadopulos, the dean of the cathedral, said he offered the building as a vaccine center as soon as he heard that a successful shot had been developed. “Our thought was that many elderly, vulnerable people who hadn’t been away from home much, if at all, in the past year would come,” he said, adding that the team “wanted to create an environment that was welcoming and calming and calming. “

“The obvious solution was to make music,” he said.

David Halls, the cathedral’s music director, said he had started playing famous classical pieces like Bach, Mozart and Handel. He said he then decided to branch out and play show songs like “Old Man River” and English music hall hits like “I Like To Be By The Sea” in the hopes that they would play would bring happy memories to older listeners.

“The phrase ‘smooth classics’ came to mind,” said Halls. “We didn’t want anything too prickly or uncomfortable or too fast.”

John Challenger, the cathedral’s assistant music director, said some residents have started sending inquiries via email. Someone suggested a work by the Australian organist and composer George Thalben-Ball, he said; On Saturday someone else emailed to ask about a play by Olivier Messiaen, including the time the work should be played.

“It’s weird what people want, isn’t it?” Challenger said.

Dan Henderson, one of the doctors overseeing the center, said the cathedral is a perfect place for vaccinations because its large, draughty space reduces the risk of contracting the virus. The music was a bonus, he added, but it had medicinal benefits because it reduced people’s anxiety. “It changes that from a medical intervention to an event,” he said, “and that really calms the patient down.”

There was only an occasional downside, he added. “We let patients sit in the observation area for half an hour to listen to music when they were only supposed to be there for 15 minutes. Sometimes it actually hampers the patient flow, ”said Henderson. “But I think that’s a pretty nice problem.”

Many visitors that last Saturday seemed to feel the urge to stick to the music and enjoy it. Sue Phillips, 77, sat in the waiting area with her husband, William, after being shot. The organists paused and she seemed disappointed with the silence.

“It would be nice if the organ played,” said Phillips. “All of these old people, including us, had a year without culture, music and beauty, then we have the chance to get our kick off to organ music.”

But shortly afterwards the organ came to life and the familiar tones of Hubert Parry’s “Jerusalem”, a patriotic English hymn, filled the room.

Phillips’ eyes lit above her mask. “Oh wonderful!” She said. “That’s magical.”

She looked at her husband and said, “I think we’ll stay 10 minutes.”

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