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A shot of good news | This month’s thoughts

In my day job as a Senior Critical Care Paramedic, I bring the hospital to the roadside and look after people when the very worst happens. You might think, particularly during a pandemic, that on my days off I would want a break from patients and PPE.

However, after such a tough year for so many of us, the amazing progress of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout has been a shot of good news amongst the gloom. That’s why, when I saw the opportunity to become a volunteer vaccinator in my local community of Marlow, I jumped at the chance to help in the fight against Covid.

I found out that a vaccination centre was being set up by community pharmacist Olivier Picard, using office space donated by local business Softcat.  After completing my extra training to become a vaccinator, I was ready to go.

The buzz about the place is palpable as you arrive. Everyone working there is volunteering their time. Not only are there volunteer vaccinators, like me, but people running the parking, giving directions, and sorting all the admin to make the whole process as smooth as possible. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the negatives of Covid and the restrictions we have all been experiencing but, if you scratch the surface, you can find positives. The way communities are coming together at these vaccination centres to help those who need it most is truly inspiring.

For some people, the trip to get vaccinated may be the first time they have left their home in months. There is a very special atmosphere. When people arrive for their vaccination, they tell you how much it means to them. For many, it is a sign that they might be able to see their children or grandchildren again soon. It is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In Marlow, we vaccinated an incredible 1,200 people in the first four days, and since then we have been steadily increasing capacity, offering more appointments and availability. As we work through the priority groups, patients are getting younger. There is a real sense of the progress we are making.  

I would urge anyone who is offered a vaccine to have it without hesitation. Quite simply, the science is behind this; the research has been done. It’s really important that we take up the vaccine when it is made available to us. Not only for our own health, but for everyone else we are helping by having it: our community, our family, our health sector.

I’m happy to say that all Thames Valley Air Ambulance paramedics have now had their first dose of the vaccine. We know that the risk of Covid transmission to healthcare professionals remains high and the use of PPE is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but this vaccine gives us hope that pressure will ease on the health service and we can all start to breathe a little easier.

After nearly a year of wearing masks in public, our smiles are often concealed behind fabric. But, when a patient looks at me in the vaccination clinic, I don’t have to see their smile to know how happy they are – I can see it in their eyes. 

Simon Wetenhall, Senior Critical Care Paramedic

Main image taken 2019.