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TRCH - Caitlin Moran

A Vaccinator in Notts

14 June 21 illustrations: Kasia Kozakiewicz

"There came a point during the first lockdown where I think we all realised that this was only ever going to truly be over once there was an effective vaccine, and I thought that it would be a privilege to play a small part in making that happen."

When COVID first hit, I think I felt pretty much the same as everybody else. Part confusion, part fear… part thinking that it probably won’t be as bad as the media – who, let’s face it, aren’t above fear-mongering – is making out. Then as time went by, and the cases and deaths started to skyrocket, it was all just replaced by this horrible feeling of hopelessness. 

Towards the end of last year I was working at a hospital that was being pretty overrun with COVID patients and it was all a bit miserable. We kept getting told that things would get better, but what we were seeing with our own eyes and what was being reported were often two very different scenarios. People were talking about the NHS needing volunteers to help join the vaccination effort, and immediately I knew I was interested. 

There came a point during the first lockdown where I think we all realised that this was only ever going to truly be over once there was an effective vaccine, and I thought that it would be a privilege to play a small part in making that happen. Usually I work in a different area of the NHS altogether, but it was a case of ‘needs must’, so I volunteered. 

The training lasted for about a month and was pretty intense. We were taught about intramuscular injections, the process of screening people, dealing with GPs and pharmacists and a huge amount of information about how both available vaccines worked. We anticipated that people would be wary of taking a vaccine, and would therefore have a lot of questions, so we had to prepare ourselves for that. Some people have a lot of questions, some people are rude and entitled, and some people go out of their way to make you feel like they’re doing you a favour by being there, but on the whole people have been excellent.  

I mainly worked in care homes and assisted living facilities, or doing home visits for vulnerable or elderly people. I’ve vaccinated a lot of younger people since then, and it’s been really interesting to see the contrast. I know it’s a bit of a cliché at this point, but the older generation really are the ‘just get on with it’ type. I don’t know if it’s because they’ve seen and done it all, or if people are just generally more easy-going at that stage in life, but the contrast between the young and old when it comes to getting the vaccination is night and day.

I don’t understand how a plane flies, but when I get a flight to New York, I trust that the men and women who designed and built the plane do. It’s the same with the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccines don’t have to be stored in low temperatures like the Pfizer ones, so I can take them around to multiple locations with me in a temperature controlled bag. The first time I did it was amazing – like I was carrying a precious jewel or something… I felt like Indiana Jones. We have a lot of volunteer drivers taking us to the people that need them, and I’d like to take the time to thank all of them for their time. A lot of people have used the word ‘hero’ for NHS and key workers during the past year, and there are plenty of them that deserve it. But there are also plenty of people who will never get the praise they deserve. It’s taken an army of ordinary people to try and get life back to normal, and like any army, it’s only the people at the top that are going to be remembered. People should remember those of their friends and family who volunteered and do something nice for them to say thank you. 

Obviously a lot of COVID discourse has been dominated by anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, which is both infuriating and understandable at the same time. It’s annoying to see and hear it, because people will regularly abuse their bodies with fast food, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, but as soon as it comes time to protect themselves and their loved ones against a deadly disease, all of a sudden they’re fixated on preserving the purity of their bodies. We live in a time of misinformation, and I can see why people are scared – but at the same time, we spend our entire lives trusting people who are better educated than us. I don’t understand how a plane flies, but when I get a flight to New York (pre-COVID, of course), I trust that the men and women who designed and built the plane do. It’s the same with the vaccine.

But I also understand it to a certain extent, and think that it represents where we are in life. The things that we call problems in 2021 are a million miles away from the problems people faced a century ago. Obviously there’s poverty and lots of other problems, but for the most part, people in modern-day Britain have extremely comfortable lives. So when people have the time and energy to spend their lives undermining the incredible scientific research that has gone into developing the vaccine, it gives me a strange level of comfort. If complaining about that achievement – which is nothing short of miraculous in scientific terms – is the biggest problem you have in life, then things must be pretty good, right?

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