Kebabs ’n’ jabs: the Punjabi grill in Gravesend offering a side of Covid shots

When customers walk through the doors of V’s Punjabi Grill, a family-run restaurant in Gravesend in Kent, the sign above their heads says in gold-letters: cocktails, grills, events.

Now, the family might need to paint a fourth bullet point: vaccinations.

After their father, Jagtar Chopra, was hospitalised with Covid in December 2020, brothers Rav and Raj Chopra were inspired to immunise the local community from their Punjabi grill.

The brothers’ kebab shop is one of hundreds of little walk-in vaccine centres, alongside sports stadiums and shopping centres and nightclubs, that form part of the NHS’s wider vaccination programme. It opened on 10 January in a marquee attached to the restaurant and has already immunised dozens of people.

V’s Punjabi Grill from the street
V’s Punjabi Grill from the street. Photograph: Laura Parnaby/PA

“Come down, get your jabs” to “protect everyone in society”, said Rav Chopra, who along with his brother is also a pharmacist.

Raj, 43, told the PA news agency he was inspired by the experience of his 74-year-old father, who has since fully recovered, in battling the virus.

“From a personal point of view, it was very debilitating to see Dad like that,” said Raj. “It got everyone’s emotions in play.

“To see it hit home so close to our hearts, it was a very tough pill – pardon the pun – to take. However, every cloud has a silver lining and it’s inspired us to really emphasise the job that we do, help the community and help out the fellow citizens in our home town and really try and protect as many people as we can.”

His father, Jagtar, believed he would succumb to the virus. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it, it was so bad,” he said. “I was in hospital for about six nights and I was really, really ill, but thanks to all the doctors, all the staff, I pulled through.”

Rav and Raj Chopra vaccinate a customer in their marquee
Rav and Raj Chopra vaccinate a customer in their marquee. Photograph: Luke Goodsall/PA

V’s Punjabi Grill vaccination hub has attracted the attention of politicians. The Conservative MP for Gravesham, Adam Holloway, praised the “fabulous” initiative to boost the rollout.

“Here, the provision has been quite patchy,” Holloway told PA. “What’s great about this is that these guys are prepared to ramp up” the booster campaign.

“We must remember that while we’re coming out, God willing, of the pandemic, and into an endemic phase, this current variant is not the last one we’re going to have,” he added. “So these guys are showing real health entrepreneurialism operating out of the back of a restaurant in the middle of Gravesend. It’s a fabulous thing.”