Fighting the war on Covid

Georgina Littlejohn stepped up to the frontline as one of thousands of volunteers across the country doing their bit to help with the vaccine rollout

I was tired, famished, my face sweaty and itchy from wearing a medical mask all day, my hands dry and wrinkly from the sanitiser, antibac wipes and medical gloves, and my poor, aching feet… ouch…

But I didn’t care one iota.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been volunteering at a north London health centre that, as well as operating its regular GP services, has also transformed into a coronavirus vaccination hub, serving the lovely people of Bounds Green, Muswell Hill, Hornsey and Wood Green.

Yesterday was my third shift and although it was only a half day, I didn’t stop for one minute as I dashed back and forth among patients and medics, multi-taking and cursing I hadn’t worn my trainers.

And I really hope it won’t be my last shift because not only do I feel I am doing my bit to help fight Covid-19, save lives and end this pandemic, but it has really proved to me just how amazing the NHS really is.

We’ve all had our moans and gripes about the Government and some of the shockingly incompetant ways they have handled this pandemic.

But what we have got right is the vaccine rollout which has left many countries trailing in our rearview mirror.

Yes, of course, the praise should go to the amazing scientists who have dedicated the last year or so to finding and developing a vaccine for this virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s also the local doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and receptionists that have stepped up and stood out during these trying times.

Every day, the clinic runs like a well-oiled machine, with both medics and civilian volunteers carrying out their duties with dedication and precision as scores of vaccines are administered every hour.

Even in the rare moments of chaos it still feels very calm and organised, with many laughs and light hearted banter among staff, volunteers and patients.

There is definitely an overwhelming feeling of hope and optimism among everyone, the excitement is palpable, all of us knowing that this rollout is bringing us one step closer to normality.

My toolkit as a volunteer

As volunteers, our job is to make sure everything runs smoothly so the doctors, medics and trained vaccinators can concentrate on the task at hand.

We cover everything from reception to checking temperatures to sanitising communal areas, showing patients into the GP’s rooms, entering patients details into the database, filling out their vaccination cards, making tea, and keeping up morale.

Yesterday, armed with my temperature gun, I had the task of sanitising chairs and lining patients up as they waited for their jab, their shot of – as my friend, fellow volunteer and uncancelled author Nicole calls it – “liquid gold”. 

And she’s absolutely right. It really is a vital and precious elixir that most patients are eagerly rolling up their sleeves for.

Of course, with anything like this comes doubt and concern and there have been a few wary takers. But their fears were soon allayed once the medics explained the safety and the efficiency of both vaccines, although I witnessed for myself a couple of people getting up and leaving having turned the vaccine down.

Sadly, there has also been a small sense of entitlement from some patients. Today, for example, the clinic was administering the Pfizer vaccine and one woman demanded to be given the Oxford/AstraZeneca instead. Another wanted her second dose at the same time as her first, and others came with partners or parents with the sole intention of getting a jab for themselves too.

But this is just a handful of cases and the majority of patients leave feeling relieved, grateful and full of praise for the centre and the whole vaccination process.

Which in turn makes us feel happy and thrilled to be taking part, so it’s little wonder that people are signing up in their hundreds to become a vaccination centre volunteer.

Because despite the aches and exhaustion, there is an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and community spirit.

And if it means the efforts of myself, my fellow volunteers and the tens of thousands of vaccinators up and down the land bring our country out of this pandemic depression and back to normality, then every callus, spot and split nail would have been totally worth it.

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Georgina Littlejohn

Georgina Littlejohn is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience specialising in general and London news, entertainment and music. She cut her teeth in TV writing for news, sport and showbiz programmes before moving into print, starting at Associated Newspapers where she worked across the board from the Metro to the Standard to the London Lite before ending at MailOnline, where she was one of the senior showbiz reporters. After going freelance and working stints at the Mirror, the Sun, Music Week and Closer magazine, she took a career break in 2014 to work for theatre impresario Bill Kenwright as his Head of Communications. After a year as Senior Homepage Editor for MSN, she is now back freelancing and currently working for the i newspaper and its award-winning website. Georgina also volunteers as a kennel assistant for the Mayhew and as a befriender for Age UK.

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