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Pandemic protection: confronting challenges

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In the penultimate instalment of this series, accuracy checking technician Paula Woodgate charts the growing momentum of the vaccination centre and the challenges they have faced over the last few months

When we started the vaccination centre, we weren’t sure how many people we’d vaccinate each day, but getting the booking system set up properly was imperative. We needed to have enough people coming through the doors, but not have loads of people waiting downstairs. We set our own timetable between 8am and 8pm, running two clinics with a person every five minutes, and making sure there was always a break in there. I think we managed really well at getting the balance right because we were meeting demand and were usually fully booked.

Making changes

Originally, we thought we might have to put some more days on once the vaccination eligibility opened up to the rest of the population. The people in at-risk groups who had their first jabs at the end of January would be starting to book their second dose for April or May, at the same time as newer eligible groups booking their first jabs.

We always said that if it came to needing to do a seven-day week of vaccinations then that’s what we’d do. Getting as many people jabbed as possible is a priority – we’re in it for the long haul! As it happened, up until the end of May, we’ve actually only ended up doing one Sunday and it was OK, but we were really tired so we haven’t made it a regular thing.

One of the main changes we’ve made over the last few months is the number of clinics we’ve run each day. We’re still doing the same amount of jabs – a thousand per week – but instead of jabbing two people every five minutes, we’re doing three people in every five minutes for part of the day. This has meant that we’ve been able to shorten the hours we work on Saturdays and have a well-earned rest!

Responsibilities and challenges

You’d have thought that with the extra clinic we’d have more vaccinators involved, but we’re actually running on fewer vaccinators. Our system works out really well with having one pharmacist and one pharmacy technician vaccinating at any one time.

Our work in the pharmacy is still in full swing and while the vaccination service is really important, so are our other services. During the third lockdown I was doing refresher training as a stop smoking advisor, which involved a three-hour Zoom meeting – it never stops! I’ve not had as many people taking part in the service as usual because of Covid-19 – the lack of face-to-face discussions has made it that much more difficult – but I’ve still had a few and it’s always good to give my knowledge and skills a boost.

When April came around, a lot of the volunteers we’d had involved in the vaccination centre went back to work and getting replacements proved to be a bit of a challenge. I put another message out on the local message board ‘Birstall Matters’, which helped a lot, and Jerry, one of our delivery drivers, is in Birstall Rotary Club so he asked around and we’ve got a few people come from there as well. We’re taking everything as it comes.

Of the volunteers, Grace, set up a WhatsApp group so if we’re short on volunteers, we just put the day’s sheet on there and people can fill in any gaps. We’ve since taken Grace (pictured above, left, with Paula) on as a Saturday girl as we thought we could do with some extra help in the pharmacy. She’s been doing a few hours after college too and it means she can get a bit of work experience and money while she decides whether to go to university. It helps us out massively, too, and it all came about because she volunteered for the vaccination centre.

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