On the moving experience that is becoming a volunteer COVID-19 vaccinator.
The biggest vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS is now well under way. Health providers are setting up COVID-19 vaccinations centres in villages, towns and cities covering every part of the country. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to become a volunteer vaccinator. Yet, even after many years in community dentistry, I was still taken aback at how moving an experience it is to vaccinate people against this virus which has so significantly affected our lives.
Becoming a vaccinator
I initially tried to volunteer via the NHS website but I didn’t receive a response. However, in January the secretary of Nottinghamshire LDC, Naresh Patel, asked if local dentists wanted to get involved in the vaccination programme, I didn’t hesitate to step forward.
Within a few days, the Integrated Care System Vaccine Lead Co-ordinator for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire provided us with documentation to complete, along with, online training vaccination modules, a list of NHS mandatory training, which had to be completed within three months and details for our face-to-face training sessions.
Some people have reported that the requirements are bureaucratic and yes, it did take a number of hours to complete the training and documentation, along with another 3-4 hours face to face, but I felt compelled to be involved and to me it was a means to an end. I just wanted to be able to help as soon as possible.
With my online and face-to-face training complete, my honorary contract and crown indemnity (Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts) in place, I was set to start.
A life changing experience
The first evening that I began performing vaccinations, I was struck by the enormity of the task.
While social distanced seating and queuing systems were in place at the community vaccination hub, the sight of this priority group, the over 80s, checking in and being helped to the waiting area was somewhat overwhelming.
“It was clear how life changing this vaccination could be for every individual there.”
Many of them told me that this was the first time they had left their homes since March 2020. Some were supported by friends and family but others had made the journey independently, with an absolute determination to attend for the vaccine.
It was clear how life changing this vaccination could be for every individual there.
There are millions of vaccinations being delivered but it’s the individual stories that resonate. From men recounting tales of vaccinations whilst completing their national service, to the women who used to treat patients with polio and tuberculosis.
They are filled with gratitude and relief over having been offered a vaccination and hope that they can soon see friends and family again. These are important experiences and I feel privileged that they have been shared with me.
Be the light at the end of the tunnel
It has been difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this is it. The largest public health programme in history is taking place and I am proud to be part of it. I would encourage anyone given the opportunity, to consider getting involved.
“I would encourage anyone given the opportunity, to consider getting involved.”
There are many ways you can contribute. Clinical assessing, reconstituting the vaccine, and drawing up and giving the vaccination are just a few. There are also individuals required to greet the patients as they arrive, escort them through the clinical assessment and on to the vaccination stations.
There is an incredibly diverse collection of volunteers including nurses, vets, GPs, police, air stewards and dental team members. But what we have in common is the collective pride in what we are all working to achieve. From facemasks with our names written on them, to brightly coloured scrubs and rainbow socks, we are all there to help.
To paraphrase a colleague, this is a far cry from my normal work but the welcome and support we have received from the staff and volunteers at the vaccination centres is overwhelming. It is an absolute privilege to be there, doing something direct to help in the battle against this deadly virus.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer vaccinator in England,
find out more information here.
Chair, England Community Dental Services Committee