BLACKBURN Cathedral is to become East Lancashire’s main coronavirus mass vaccination hub.

NHS and Church of England bosses hope it will open on Monday January 18 subject to the supply of the vaccine.

The innoculations will take place in the crypt, currently an event space and formerly home to a cafe.

The Dean of Blackburn Peter Howell Jones said: “I am over the moon. It is a joy to see the cathedral at the heart of Blackburn community life.”

Cllr Damian Talbot, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s health boss, said: “I am delighted. It will be the main mass vaccination centre for Pennine Lancashire. It is ideal, centrally located, visible and accessible.”

Health bosses also looked at other potential venues including Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park stadium but dismissed that on grounds of poor disabled access.

Last month the Lancashire Telegraph reported that church authorities had offered the the Cathedral to the NHS as a centre for Covid-19 jabs.

They promised it would be able to offer vaccinations 12 hours a day, seven days a week to up to 1,700 people per week. The jabs are expected to be administered by NHS staff and volunteers.

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director, said: "I am delighted that the roll-out of the first mass vaccination site in Lancashire will be in Blackburn Cathedral.

“This will make a big difference to accelerating the vaccination rates. I urge everyone who is invited to take up their appointments.

“Although we are going to have a very big challenge over the next two months the vaccination programme is truly the ‘beginning of the end’ of the pandemic.”

The Very Rev Howell Jones said: “The cathedral is central and near to the railway and bus stations with many nearby car parks.

“Since I came to Blackburn I have heard many people of all faiths and backgrounds call it ‘our cathedral’.

“I am really pleased. We have put a lot of effort into making it clinical and Covid safe.

“It is the only cathedral in the country to be selected and it's appropriate it should play its part in a time when people are anxious and worried.

“ It is a centre of the whole Blackburn community.”

Cllr Talbot said: “Other venues were looked at including Ewood Park but the Cathedral has full disabled access. There are already other vaccination sites in places like Darwen Health Centre.”

Jane Scattergood, Covid-19 vaccination director for the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System said: "As the expansion of the Covid Vaccination programme continues to gather pace, we are delighted that Blackburn Cathedral will be used as a larger scale vaccination centre. 

"GPs, nurses, pharmacists, countless other staff and volunteers are working hard behind the scenes to get the site ready for the go live date later this month as part of the roll out of the new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. We are asking the public to support the NHS by not contacting your GP about your vaccination, we will invite you when it is your time."

Downing Street has said that regional mass vaccinations centres at seven sites across England will start operations next week.

They are London’s ExCel convention centre, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester,Epsom Racecourse in Surrey, Robertson House in Stevenage, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham.