Along with thousands of others, up and down the country, I’ve been volunteering at local covid vaccination stations. I’ve yet to do one of the mega sites such as football grounds and usually attend local pharmacies. At these places you see a few hundred people a day. This week I was at the Montgomery Hall on Harleyford Road just outside The Oval cricket ground. There it’s a little different.
Monty Hall is a typical church hall with a large room and stage, various other smaller spaces, and a bit of green out the back. As I discovered it’s become a well-oiled vaccinating machine. On the day I was there 1800 people had registered for a jab and there were several hundred walk-ins on top. It may not be the same everywhere but if you’re over eighteen you can just pitch up and get your (Pfizer) jab and you can get your second dose just six weeks later. Note to all if you do show up on spec, you’ll need your NHS number and the name of your doctor’s surgery.
My shift was from 8.15 to 1.15 and we didn’t stop; lines of young people eager to get their shot stretched down the road. Almost without exception they were kind and friendly and some effusively grateful to get their vaccination.
Volunteers appear to come from three different sources: The NHS, St John’s Ambulance and via the Good Sam phone app. The NHS mob have blue tabards, the St John’s brigade get natty name tags and I’ve got a very bright yellow hi viz jacket, which says Steward Volunteer from the Royal Voluntary Service. I may have inadvertently become a member of the royal family and the thing is so bright it frightens dogs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think people can sign up for any of these groups.
On the Good Sam app, you get a whole slew of suggestions as to vacc centres that need help, with the ones closest to where you live at the top of the list. You then click on the location you wish to attend. When the jab rollout first started shifts were often as long as eight hours but it’s now quite possible to pitch up for half that time.
Some friends seem to think I’ve been jamming hypodermic syringes into people’s arms; sadly that isn’t the case though if this shenanigan goes on for long, I might get trained up. I generally opt for being front-of-house welcoming people in, taking their temperature with a thermometer gun and logging their details into a hand-held computer, but there are plenty of other roles.
A few felt faint
Mrs Preen did a shift in the post vaccination tent out the back of Monty Hall and had a few fainters. Apparently, side effects if there are any, kick in after a few minutes with the Pfizer jab and that’s why there’s a 15-minute wait before patients can leave. Apparently, side effects for Oxford Astra Zeneca come later. But I don’t want to put anyone off, serious side effects are very rare and following my two Pfizer jabs I had a mild headache and a slightly sore arm.
Volunteering has been a great experience and a reminder as to just how wonderful London can be. You don’t have to go overseas or on holiday; the outside world comes to you. We had three Harriets, my sister’s name, all lining up with Kathryn, Scott, Muhammed, Aoife, Jasmine, Jakub, Matilda, Adam, Promise, Praise and Penelope and of course hundreds more. I forgot how to spell Aoife, but I just looked and found the name means beautiful and radiant. So top name if anyone’s about to have a daughter.
The government is always trying to stake their claim to the success of the vaccine rollout, but from my experience praise should be heaped on the NHS and if there’s a bit left over, on to people wearing quite spectacularly ugly tabards. Maybe you might consider giving it a go.