Volunteering Rotarians at the heart of Covid clinics

Volunteering Rotarians at the heart of Covid clinics

As the National Health Service’s mammoth Covid vaccination programme gets under way, so Rotary clubs have responded in huge numbers to the call for volunteers.

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.

It is being given to:

  • People aged 80 and over
  • Some people aged 70 and over
  • Some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
  • People who live or work in care homes
  • Health and social care workers.

Currently, more than four million people have been given the first dose of the vaccine.

In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, but also at hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs, and at larger vaccination centres.

And these centres, not only in England, but across Great Britain and Ireland, are being assisted by a battalion of volunteers, including thousands of Rotarians.

Rotary volunteers Andrew Chitty (left) and John Clegg (right).

In East Sussex, members of the Heathfield and Waldron Rotary Club have been helping at Newhaven port, covering the two sailings a day from France.

In a note from David Kemp, from the Sussex Resilience Forum, he wrote: “I have been humbled by the way that your volunteers have stepped us to help facilitate testing to allow foreign lorry drivers to get home. My sincere thanks for everything that you have heroically contributed to this humanitarian effort.”

And that humanitarian effort is ongoing, likely to last for many months, with the Rotary volunteers working closely with health officials to provide marshalling guidance as well as helping in post-vaccination areas.

All sorts of facilities have been taken over to host the mass vaccinations.

They include the Harrogate Great Yorkshire Showground in North Yorkshire where Rotary clubs were approached by the local NHS team to volunteer as marshals. They have been vaccinating up to 2,000 people daily.

Mike Dixon from Knaresborough Rotary was among a number of Rotarians who have been volunteering.

He said: “The feedback I and others received from the over-80s visiting the centre for these early sessions, has been excellent.

“All commented on the smooth-running, efficiency and excellent management of the operation, with grateful thanks to the large number of staff and volunteers who made the experience as caring and stress-free as possible for all concerned.

“The whole operation is being managed by Harrogate and Rural District GP practices, who have been tasked by the UK Government with the early roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine to key population groups.

“The operation is likely to continue for several months.  I congratulate the management in Harrogate for a job very well done, at the commencement of this huge and vital task.”

In Berkshire, Maidenhead Bridge Rotary has been helping patients as part of the biggest vaccination programme in the NHS’s history.

Their experience is typical of many volunteering Rotarians. Here, Lisa Hunter writes.

We arrive just before 8am for the morning shift, where we’re all given our PPE and taken on a tour of the temporary clinic to understand the lay the land before being briefed on the various duties we will be covering.

 The first appointments are at 8.30am, but as you can imagine some people (especially the elderly) turn up very early.

 The patients come from most of the medical practices in Maidenhead and Cookham as they have joined forces to implement the vaccination programme.

In Berkshire, Maidenhead Bridge Rotary has been helping patients as part of the biggest vaccination programme in the NHS’s history.”

 One of us is standing just outside the entrance to ask people if they have an appointment, and the time, they are also asked if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

 On entering the Town Hall, the patients are asked to sanitise their hands and they check in with the next volunteer. The patient is handed information on the vaccine, and then joins the queue.

 Here, more volunteers are marshalling the queue, generally to chat to the patients to make them feel at ease and to help those with mobility problems.

 One of our key duties is to sanitise seats used in the waiting area as soon as they are vacated.

 The length of the queue varies, because of arrivals and also how smoothly the inoculations go, but you only hear very few complaints about the wait.

Here, more volunteers are marshalling the queue, generally to chat to the patients to make them feel at ease and to help those with mobility problems.”

 If you two or three men behind each other, all being of an age to have done National Service, you get humorous remarks about their time in the army and how inoculations took place 60 years ago!

 There are seven inoculation stations in the main theatre area, and her our next volunteer directs the patients at the front of the queue when one of the stations is available.

 If there is a husband and wife they will be inoculated together.

 After patients have been inoculated they are required to sit in spaced out seats for 15 minutes. They are handed a piece of paper with time they allowed to leave, and there is a digital clock on the stage for them all to see.

 As you can imagine this means more chairs that have to be sanitised between patients!

 Andrew Chitty commented “I enjoyed helping out with the clinic before Christmas and I also helped on Thursday last week and will be there Thursday this week.

 “From next week my wife, Jean and I have committed to being a volunteer every Wednesday morning for the following 12 weeks.” 

Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland recently formed a partnership with the British Red Cross and the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCS EP) to assist with providing volunteers to assist in times of need such as the COVID-19 vaccination centres.

The VCS EP only covers England, but it has approached all of its partners, which includes Rotary, to assist with providing volunteers to help with the vaccination programme.