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Covid vaccination roll-out: A Vaccinator’s Tale 2 - Back to School


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A retired nurse who returned to the job to help vaccinate thousands of people at a mass hub has kept working, and is now helping deliver the programme in schools.

Jed Sheerin spent 40 years as an NHS nurse but back in March came out of retirement to support the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out.

Jed and his colleagues waiting for students in the school gym
Jed and his colleagues waiting for students in the school gym

He found himself working at the mass hub at The Woodville, Gravesend, serving patients across north Kent including Medway and talked about the "privilege" of the role.

But when the hub closed in August, rather than ditch his scrubs and head back into days of leisure, Jed decided to keep working and is now delivering vaccines in schools across Kent, mostly Gravesend, Dartford and the Medway Towns.

With today marking the first anniversary of the first vaccine being given, the grandfather, who lives in High Halstow, on the Hoo Peninsula, said: "In February this year I joined the Kent Community Health Foundation Trust at their Woodville centre in Gravesend.

"Working there as a Covid-19 vaccinator was an unforgettable experience but since then, along with many of my KCHFT co-workers, I’ve had to go back to school!

"Our shifts still begin at eight in the morning but now, instead of a converted theatre, we set ourselves up in borrowed assembly rooms or sports halls. After taking delivery of that day’s supply of vaccine and equipment and reviewing our lists, we check that everything is ready and then, marshalled by their teachers, the students come filing in.

Jed came out of retirement to help with the vaccination programme
Jed came out of retirement to help with the vaccination programme

"Working with schoolchildren has its own special kind of vibe. They sit together, chatting and laughing with each other while they wait for their Covid-19 vaccination or their flu immunisation. Often, they have both.

"Full of high spirits and positivity, and sometimes barely suppressed mischief, they have been a joy to work with.

"Throughout the day, our pharmacy staff, administrators, consenters and vaccinators work together to prioritise patient safety. Most people understand that vaccination is a low-risk, highly effective means of reducing the spread and harmful impact of Covid-19.

"Nonetheless, anyone can feel apprehensive about having an injection. Alongside the teaching staff on duty, we offer support and reassurance to all our vaccinees.

"I must also mention that the kindness shown by our pupils if one of their friends is feeling nervous is not only helpful, but also lovely to witness.

Jed when he was volunteering at the mass vaccination centre in Gravesend
Jed when he was volunteering at the mass vaccination centre in Gravesend
Pin badges and thank you letters were given to KCHFT staff by bosses
Pin badges and thank you letters were given to KCHFT staff by bosses

"That said, one of the comments we frequently hear, just as soon as they have had their jab is, ‘Oh, was that it, then?’

"After a brief observation period, usually spent swapping stories, they return – sometimes arm-in-arm – to their classrooms.

"The NHS says that vaccinating children against Covid-19 gives good protection against them getting seriously ill and can help stop the spread of Covid-19 to other people, including within schools. That pretty much sums up my views.

"It has been a such a pleasure to meet so many of Kent’s sparky, promising young people."

While Jed's experience working in schools has been positive, not everyone agrees with the vaccination programme for children and some pupils have found themselves the target of anti-vaxxers at the school gates.

The mass Covid vaccination centre at Gravesend's Woodville theatre
The mass Covid vaccination centre at Gravesend's Woodville theatre

In October, increased patrols outside schools were demanded after groups of pupils were approached by anti-vaccination protesters in Gravesend and before that, police were called to a protest outside a school in Faversham.

However, the NHS says that while Covid-19 is usually mild in most children, it can make some unwell and one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine gives good protection against your child getting seriously ill.

It says vaccinating children can also help stop the spread of Covid-19 to other people, including within schools which is why vaccines are being rolled out nationally to those aged 12-15.

A year ago today the UK became the first country in the world to deploy an approved Covid-19 vaccine and since then, almost 120 million doses have been administered across the UK.

On December 8, 2020, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry, administered by Matron May Parsons.

Just days later, great-grandad Kenneth Lamb was the first patient in Kent and Medway to have the life-saving vaccination against Covid-19. Kenneth, 80, from New Romney, was vaccinated at the William Harvey Hospital vaccination hub in Ashford.

Today, the booster programme is now accelerating. New vaccine sites are opening with support from the military and a new vaccinator recruitment drive is taking place, to offer top-up jabs to all adults by end of January.

The UK is now approaching 21 million boosters and third doses administered, according to latest government figures.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "I’m incredibly proud of our phenomenal Covid-19 vaccination programme. In one year we have administered almost 120 million doses across the UK, saving countless lives and giving us a powerful weapon to fight this devastating virus.

"The battle is not yet over and we are working around the clock to boost the booster programme to maximise immunity following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

"It is absolutely crucial everybody comes forward for their vaccines and booster jabs as soon as you are eligible so we can strengthen our wall of defence against Covid-19 and enjoy Christmas safely with our families and loved ones this year."

The Covid-19 vaccination programme is the largest in British history and was established at unprecedented speed, with thousands of vaccine centres set up rapidly in England which means around 98% of people live within 10 miles of a vaccination clinic.

The UK has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccine uptake rates in the world, with four in five people aged over-65 in England already receiving their booster jab.

Latest statistics for Kent and Medway show:

  • 3,145,664 total doses, of which 497,554 are third booster doses.
  • 93% of cohorts 1-9 have had two doses.
  • 74% of those eligible have had their booster.
  • 69% of everyone over 18 has had two doses.
  • 62% of 16 to 17-year-olds have had one dose.
  • 46% of 12 to 15-year-olds have had one dose.
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