PhD Candidate's Experience Volunteering at a Vaccine Centre
PhD Virology candidate, Cameron Stockwell, discusses his time volunteering at Elland Road Vaccination Centre. He emphasises the importance of the COVID-19 vaccinations.
It’s 5am time to wake up to begin my 12-hour weekend shift at the Elland Road Vaccination Centre. There is a certain irony to starting a PhD in Virology in the midst of a pandemic, a world of unknown and a hundred questions. “Will it hurt?”, I am asked, as I reassure the patient that since opening in February 2021 the Elland Road Mass Vaccination Centre has given more than 200,000 doses of the Moderna mRNA vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca adenoviral vaccine.
We all share the common goal of preventing more hospitalisations, severe disease and death due to SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. A major part of our work is tackling falsehoods that use fear and persuasion which has exacerbated the pandemic further. These erroneous claims are best tackled by answering any questions with sincerity and honesty, using science and empathy to educate people on how vaccination works as well as vaccine safety.
In the UK the BioNTech (Pfizer), Moderna and Oxford-Astrazenca vaccines are used. These vaccines allow the body to produce antibodies that recognise the coronavirus and stimulate the immune system to remove the virus, thus protecting us from severe disease. At least 3.96 bn doses of the developed coronavirus vaccines have been given out globally thus far; this is no small feat. With over 35 million adults in the UK, vaccinating everyone is a mammoth task, requiring thousands of health care staff, working 7 days a week to immunise the public.
On my 25th birthday, I had my first shift as a member of the NHS workforce, walking into what is now a medical facility comprised of 22 vaccination pods and over 50 medical pre-screening booths stunned me. The magnitude and level of organisation were incredible. Combined, the vaccination programme so far is estimated to have helped prevent 27,000 deaths at the time of writing. It was here where I received both my doses. On entering the site, I was greeted by the marshals who ushered me in the right direction, the check-in staff confirmed my vaccine and directed me to the medical screening booths. Then I went through a questionnaire with a health care practitioner about my eligibility for the vaccine I’d receive before being put into a pod with a vaccinator who gave me my dose. Post-vaccination, I was observed for 15 minutes before being sent away. The process is smooth, organised and relatively quick.
The Leeds mass vaccination centre is open from 7:30 -18:30. Across the UK, many centres now offer a walk-in service for those 18 and over, vaccinations can be booked through the National Booking Service, or by calling 119.