Tuesday 9 February 2021

Vaccination progresses

“Have you had the jab yet?” It’s a regular question as my barbershop chorus meets on Zoom on a Wednesday evening. So I keep my end on mute, but it’s trickier one-to-one in break-out rooms. I am trying to master saying, “I’m too young” without sounding peeved that I look like I’m in the currently eligible over-70s demographic. I can’t blame Zoom for grey hair.

But I admit to just a little envy of those who’ve been able to get vaccinated and seeing at first-hand the steady progress of the nationwide programme. So when an email from Voluntary Norfolk arrived asking for help at a vaccination clinic withing walking distance, I was happy to accept a shift and to see how it all works, especially as requests for prescription collection/delivery have gone from very occasional (four since lockdown) to none at all.

Walking to Lionwood Medical Practice in heavy snow, I wondered what the PPE on offer would be for ‘vaccination stewarding support (patient flow)’. Snowshoes and full Arctic gear? The email warned that I might be outside and to wear appropriate clothing.

Snow and ice at the medical centre.

Actually, it was a mask, surgical gloves and yellow Covid-19 hi-vis vest. I was inside, so had strip off several layers of outdoor clothing to look after what I called the ‘departure lounge’, where those driving waited for their regulation 15 minutes before leaving. It involved showing people where they could best sit, socially distanced, where to keep an eye on the time (with help offered on the arithmetic) then cleaning seats with surgical wipes after they’d gone.

Overall impressions were as good as the reports I’d heard from others and read in the newspaper. There was an atmosphere of calm efficiency, fitting what the email had advised “as a marathon, not a sprint.” Everyone did what they were asked, some expressed grateful thanks, and some were happy to chat as far as it was possible given the spread-out seating and masks. The task was ideal for a first-time volunteer: what in my job evaluation days might be called ‘routine repetition of skills’.

A few more lines might come in handy. “Welcome to the departure lounge, your flight departs in 15 minutes” seemed OK. “There’s room to sit on the front row; you’d pay extra for that on easyJet.” “Been self-isolating anywhere nice recently?” No, I didn’t try that one.

An experienced hand thought that it was quieter than usual: about 80% turning up, given the conditions, where usually it was 95+%. It was good to see the expert advice on BBC Look East that evening that a few closed vaccination sites and no-shows was sensible and rational: a real danger from icy conditions trumps a jab that can be postponed for the theoretical risk from Covid-19.

Writing this as the vaccination total is more than 12 million, it is at last feeling like there is some hope of Honeyguide activities resuming, perhaps back to rule-of-six or similar within the UK. We’ll see what the promised ‘road map’ says later this month.


  1. Here's a few more suggestions:
    A triumphant fanfare a la Ryanair to everyone entering the waiting area.
    A safety demonstration, explaining where the exits are, and if it's hot, not to put their coats on until they've left the building.
    Offer car hire to those without onward transport.
    Offer a hot drink at exorbitant prices.
    And of course, urge them to read the safety leaflet.

    Seriously though, it's fantastic that you're able to volunteer in this incredible exercise. As you say, it gives us a bit of hope to be able to increase our horizons in the near future.

    All the best, David B

  2. Helping towards that bit of hope, exactly. Rule-of-six, which is quite restrictive, suddenly becomes the great ambition! Another shift at the medical centre today was less than eventful, wiping seats in arrivals. Vaccine was in short supply and the flow of patients had been managed accordingly.

  3. A circular from Voluntary Norfolk on 31 March 2022 says:

    "Since Voluntary Norfolk began coordinating the volunteer pandemic response our volunteers have given over 46,000 hours of their time to support some of the most vulnerable people living in our communities!
    This includes ...
    o 12,267 - Befriending calls to reduce loneliness and isolation
    o 1486 - Prescription medication deliveries to vulnerable people
    o 331 - Essential shops delivered to vulnerable people
    o 31,524 - Vaccination centre volunteer hours"

    ‘Covid-19 response service’ now becomes ‘Community Response service’. My Voluntary Norfolk log-in shows 57 hours, which was 12 or 13 sessions at the vaccination clinics and a few pharmacy deliveries. That was all peak-pandemic, while work had effectively stopped.


Valencia: bird ringing sheds light on wetland warbler survival

For many Honeyguiders, one of the highlights of our March Valencia trip is to attend a bird ringing session at Pego Marshes Natural Park. Ou...