Public health staff from Somerset County Council are rolling up their sleeves – and those of others – to join the army of vaccinators in the county.
Jo Smith is the first fully trained Somerset County Council vaccinator, working in the Burnham-on-Sea vaccination site, and is combining her new role with her day job by working shifts outside her normal working hours – evenings and weekends.
She will soon be joined by other members of the Council’s public health nursing team who will be offering vaccination shifts outside normal working hours to make sure delivery of their vital day-to-day work is not affected.
As Head of Service for the Public Health Operational Teams, Jo’s vital day job includes managing the public health nursing team, who work with local communities and families in different settings such as homes, children’s centres, GP surgeries, schools and Early Years, supporting families from pregnancy up to 19 years old. So she is well aware of the vital role vaccinators are playing in the national effort to combat coronavirus.
She is a qualified nurse and health visitor but still had to undertake intensive training for her role as a vaccinator, adding: “It has been a robust training programme.”
The first jab she administered on Friday was given under supervision before becoming part of the vaccination team.
“I am feeling very excited that I will be able to do something to reduce the risks of COVID-19 and looking forward to the contribution I will be able to play in the vaccination programme,” she said.
At first Jo will be working with staff in a GP-led hub and will also be looking to offer support to the mass vaccination sites if required.
And her message to all those Somerset residents who are awaiting their first immunisation shot? “Please be patient, your turn will come soon but for now the best way you can help the NHS is by waiting until you are asked to attend and get your vaccination. And please remember, even if you are vaccinated it is still vitally important you continue to ‘hands, face, space’ as the vaccine will only prevent serious illness and death; you may still be able it and you still may be able to pass it onto others.”
Councillor Clare Paul, Somerset County Council’s member responsible for health and wellbeing, said: “The vaccination roll-out in Somerset – and nationally – is incredible. So much work has been done so quickly to get sites up and running.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those who are, like Jo, administering the vaccines and helping to make sure the process runs smoothly. So many are offering to do this life-saving work in addition to their day jobs. It is awe-inspiring.”
Across Somerset, there are now 20 sites where vaccinations are taking place including the two large vaccination sites at Taunton Racecourse and the Bath and West Showground, two hospital hubs, 13 GP-led community sites and now three pharmacy-led sites at Morrisons carpark in Yeovil, Boots, Taunton, and Bruton Community Hall.
Somerset County Council staff have been supporting the programme from the outset with hundreds of staff redeployed to a range of roles, from project management and logistics to admin and traffic management.
The NHS has set up a web page which sets out more information about Somerset’s vaccination programme. This can be viewed at www.somersetccg.nhs.uk/covid-19-vaccinations-in-somerset/.
If anyone is concerned about accessing an appointment, or needs other help or support during the pandemic, please call the Coronavirus helpline on 0300 790 6275. Lines are open from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week.