• York Rotary

A shift in the life of a volunteer at Askham Bar COVID Vaccination Centre

From Mary and Paul...

York got off to a really good start in late December by establishing a Local Vaccination Centre (LVC) in a tent in the old Askham Bar Park and Ride thanks to the foresight of Mike Holmes (Rotarians might remember that he was a lunchtime speaker last year) and Nimbus Health who represent 15 GP Surgeries in and around the city. This ‘tent’ has been in action almost every day since then although actually being able to offer a vaccination is very dependent on supply of vaccine.

A National Vaccination Centre (NVC) has been up and running alongside the LVC since mid January in two Portakabins to the rear of the LVC ‘tent’. On a day when all three centres are fully active they can vaccinate around 2300 people in a 12 hour period! Mary and Paul on duty

As you can imagine there were a few teething problems at the start but it now runs like a well organised and managed machine. The personnel on site include: GPs, Hospital Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, Pharmacists, members of the Armed Forces, St John’s Ambulance, Administrators, Site Management, Cleaners, Traffic Management and last but not least, numerous Volunteers

So what does a Volunteer Shift involve? Originally there were 3 x 4 hr shifts in the day but these then changed to 2 x 6hr shifts a few weeks ago to align volunteers to those being followed by other staff. We (Paul and myself) decided to split these shifts thus doing 3 hrs each because we found six hours standing out in the rain and snow too arduous. However Nimbus Health after realising this is too much to ask of even the most stoic volunteer and also after receiving a lot of feedback (!) are returning to 4hr shifts from next week.

A typical 4 hr shift looks like this:

11.45 Arrive and sign in at the office area in the old Children’s Nursery building. Don a blue Volunteer jacket and attend a briefing with site staff

12.00 Begin the shift at the place assigned to you on the rota. This could be greeting cars as they drive in; directing traffic into a parking lane; greeting people once parked and showing them which vaccination area to walk towards; assisting less mobile people with wheelchairs; reassuring people that they are the following the correct entry and exit walking routes; taking temperatures on entry to the vaccination areas; making and delivering hot drinks for all personnel working outside.

16:00 Hand over to the next team

We are outside for the whole shift and in all weathers. All shifts involve a lot of standing in one place so suitable clothing is essential. As an example, today’s glamorous attire for Mary was: thermal underwear, 2 Long sleeved tee shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, fleece, 2 coats, 2 hats, scarf, ski gloves, ski socks, boots and of a course that essential facemask and a high-viz on top of it all! But despite all of this, toes and fingers still get cold. It’s amazing that anyone recognises us as only our eyes are visible!

We are really enjoying the role and are pleased to be able to support the vaccination programme. It’s challenging but very rewarding. The public are so grateful and go away with a spring in their step and a hint that life is going to improve. Some are emotional and some have returned with chocolates, baskets of fruit and even pizzas for everyone! Paul is hoping to become a Clinical Vaccinator soon and all of those stories you read in the press some weeks ago about the wide range of exams the already qualified were having to retake are absolutely true (23).

Whilst not officially volunteering as Rotarians, we are flying the flag. We are meeting other volunteers of all ages and walks of life, some of which could be the Rotarians of the future. The buzz we get from playing a small part in the battle to defeat COVID and return our lives to a new normal is the only reward we need.

Mary Lumley and Paul Harvey

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