The weekend they’ve been waiting for: Vaccine tents join line up as 170,000 descend on festivals across UK

This is a weekend festival goers have been craving for a long, long time.

The sun is set to complement the sounds across the Bank Holiday weekend as over 170,000 revellers are expected to descend on Reading, Leeds and Creamfields festivals, all who missed out last year because of the pandemic.

But the virus is still here, and there are concerns even despite the stringent COVID protocols in place, these events could result in thousands of positive cases.

At Leeds festival, when you get through the gates and all the COVID checks, you are reminded this is a major music festival in the midst of a pandemic. Hand sanitizer is available everywhere, but more obvious is a COVID vaccine tent – not something you’d expect on the line-up.

In theory, you’d think it’s the perfect plan to get as many ‘young people’ vaccinated – over 90,000 people are expected to be at Leeds festival, and this would be the perfect opportunity for teenagers and those in their 20’s who’ve not yet had their first or second jab, to get it.

But the message from NHS England is clear, if you’re intoxicated you will not get inoculated and that has automatically put plenty of people off.

“I personally wouldn’t get it, because of the side effects. I’m at a festival, I’ve paid £300 to be here and I’m not going to get a vaccine which could potentially make me ill,” one festival goer told us.

Another said: “I wouldn’t get it here because I want to drink and enjoy myself. If I got ill, I’d just be stuck in the tent and that would be grim.”

But some were optimistic and thought it was a good move.

One person said: “People have been a bit lazy to get the jab at home, here it’s right there so you may as well just go and get it whilst you’re here.

“That’s what I might do this weekend.”

In fact, the opportunity to get a vaccine has attracted one of the acts too. Singer Declan McKenna told us he’s going to get his second COVID jab when he comes to perform at Leeds on Saturday – he said it’s a ‘win-win’ situation.

“It’ll be really apt to end the weekend off by getting my second vaccine at my favourite festival. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and to be back playing here especially after the madness of the last 18 months will be a special feeling.”

He added: “It’s amazing seeing people’s livelihoods with a new found enthusiasm for festivals after the pandemic because you can’t deny how beautiful it’s going to be doing this and seeing everyone enjoying themselves.”

At Reading festival, they’ve already had a good response with many opting to have their jab just hours before performances start.

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Tehmeena Ajmal who’s the COVID operations director for Oxford Health, said: “We’re in a festival setting so people will want to know if they have the vaccine, how are they likely to feel? Will it stop them enjoying the festival?

“What we’re saying is that actually, most people have almost no kind of side effects, maybe a slightly sore arm but if they drink plenty of water and take paracetamol then they should be fine and enjoy the rest of the festival.”

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