Frankie Burwell, Office Manager, on her experience of becoming a Covid-19 vaccinator.
In November last year, I received an email from St John Ambulance asking if I would be interested in volunteering as a vaccinator, if and when a vaccine had been found and approved. Having had enough of not being able to see friends, family and colleagues , I decided this would be an opportunity to assist with getting things back on track. And so, following a Zoom interview, I took part in over 8 hours online training to prepare for the mass roll out of a vaccine that hadn’t yet been found!
Fast forward to 2nd December 2020, the Pfizer vaccine had been approved and it was all systems go to get as many volunteers as possible trained up ready for when we knew who would be first in line to get the vaccine and where the testing would be taking place. When more information became available from the government and health care professionals, St John Ambulance called to book me in to the classroom training.
Training to vaccinate
In early January, I attended a 10-hour day-long session where I learned about the three processes you follow as a vaccinator:
Welcoming and Signing in
We first learnt how to welcome and sign-in individuals coming into the vaccination centre. We had to check names, dates of birth and most importantly make sure that nobody was displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. Once signed in and asked to take a seat, we would then make sure each person was happy to go in without any further assistance. For example, if someone was blind or hard of hearing, one of the volunteers would stay with them until the whole process was complete.
Since using the real vaccine to train volunteers would be a waste, we were handed syringes full of tap water so we could learn how to administer an injection. The first step is to tap the syringe to remove any air bubbles before you make the injection. After a few failed attempts, I finally got the hang of it and the senior healthcare professional signed me off as a vaccinator.
Once the vaccine has been received, patients need to wait for a minimum of 15 minutes before being able to leave the vaccination centre. This is to check they have not experienced any side effects from the vaccine and that they will be suitable to have a second dose, if and when they need it. Most people are unaffected by the vaccine and may just suffer the usual side effects, such as headaches and bruising in their arm, but some may suffer from anaphylaxis, fainting or many other side effects which would need immediate intervention. Thankfully, there are plenty of health care professionals on every vaccination site, so everyone is in good hands.
There are still a lot of legalities that have to be agreed to enable someone that is not a medical professional to administer the jab at the centre I am registered withmeaning that I haven't done any hands on vaccinating yet but I have been doing other essential volunteer work at the centre:
- Attending meetings with our vaccination leads. We discuss what's next for the vaccination sites, how it's going and how many people are expected in the coming weeks.
- Supporting vaccination shifts. At the start of every shift on the vaccination sites all of the staff gather to find out how many people are expected each day, who's coming in, and what the day looks like. I then help direct people, check if anyone has any questions, support and assist people with additional needs such as hearing loss or people needing wheelchair access. Whilst doing this, I also keep the medical team informed of any additional needs they need to consider for people being vaccinated.
- Attending the aftercare section. I help make sure people who have had their vaccine haven’t had a reaction and are feeling well enough to go about their day. It's lovely talking with people after they have had their jabs - some people hadn’t been out for a year so they get all dressed up and are so happy and grateful to be out and about.
Seeing how happy people are to receive their vaccination and get a sense of normality back in their lives, especially if they've been isolating since the lock down beganreally makes volunteering feel worthwhile and satsfying. We're now getting to the professionals and front-line workers coming for their jabs which means younger people are coming through the doors. This is a great indicator that we are on track with the vaccination programme and I am so pleased to be contributing to the progress being made.
Using my CSR days
As a volunteer for St John Ambulance or the NHS volunteer scheme you have to commit to volunteer for two 8 hour shifts a month. Foot Anstey has a great scheme where they encourage us to use two days paid leave a year for voluntary charity activities related to helping our local community, this scheme will help me to commit to my shifts.