On becoming a COVID-19 volunteer vaccinator in Scotland and how you can join up.
I signed up to become a volunteer vaccinator after the Lothian Health Board wrote to all dentists and requested their help. I’m an associate in a mixed practice just outside of Edinburgh, and I work four days a week, so I felt I could spare the time to support this massive national effort.
If you’re interested in getting involved, here’s what you need to know:
Is there a lot of bureaucracy involved?
“Some colleagues have understandably been frustrated by the bureaucracy of the process.”
To become a vaccinator, I had to complete a series of online modules, which covered basic immunology, history and legal aspects of vaccination and medical emergencies. There was also a practical course for training in intramuscular injections, which I really valued doing. It helped to build my confidence.
I read over the legal aspects of vaccination too. The
green book chapter 14(a), the COVID-19 vaccination information for public health professionals, is online and good ‘light’ reading for anyone who is thinking of becoming a vaccinator (or suffering from insomnia). Some colleagues have understandably been frustrated by the bureaucracy of the process, and some of the modules did take up a fair bit of my time. But for me, it was worth it. And after all, we dentists are rather used to dealing with paperwork!
A humbling experience
It all felt quite daunting at first. But on my first day, I was fortunate enough to work alongside a GP. That helped me to feel really well supported and in good hands. And I was not alone. Among the vaccinators were retired doctors and nurses, physiotherapists and optometrists.
The overall atmosphere was also incredibly positive, and the centre was well organised. There was a one-way system in place and patients were directed from the reception desk to individual booths for their vaccinations, with the help of ushers throughout. Thousands of people have streamed through the centre to get this life-saving vaccination.
“Out of the hundreds of appreciative patients, you can expect one who won’t be.”
I remember leaving after my first shift humbled by all the amazing people I met that day, both colleagues and patients. I hope to always remember that incredible feeling of being useful to the wider community in a time of crisis. One man’s story in particular has stayed with me. He was a retired vet and very happy to be getting the vaccine. He even told me he invented a vaccine for sheep many years ago, which is still used globally today.
It is not all plain sailing though. Out of the hundreds of appreciative patients, you can expect one who won’t be. Whether it is fear, vaccine hesitancy, racism or the loss of social skills from a year of social isolation, some patients need more time to feel comfortable. But support was always there when this happened, and this helps to keep you from getting discouraged.
Good for combatting cabin fever
I have not been able to go home to see my family for more than a year now and living alone in lockdown has not been easy. But spending my Sundays at one of the mass vaccinations sites in Edinburgh has helped keep my mind occupied and spirits up. This continues to be a tough time for many of us. Grateful patients and supportive staff remain my main motivation, as they remind me that showing up every day is making a difference to someone’s life.
I encourage everyone who is interested in becoming a vaccinator not to be put off by the training required. For me, this has been an extremely rewarding experience, and a much-needed change of scenery from the gloom of this new normal.