Royal Air Force drafted in to Stevenage as NHS calls for volunteers to deliver booster jabs

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Members of the armed forces have been trained to deliver booster jabs to thousands of people, as the national effort to deliver a third vaccine dose to all adults by the end of the year intensifies.

At one of the country's busiest vaccination centres in Stevenage, the Royal Air Force has been drafted in, while appeals have been made for more volunteers to come forward to help deliver the roll-out.

Senior aircraftsman Lewis Barker has come to East Anglia from RAF Lossiemouth, north of Inverness, and has been trained to administer the jabs as well as admin duties.

He said: "We're trying to deliver it as efficiently as we can. It means a lot to me. We're here to work alongside the NHS basically, so it's a good experience. The NHS colleagues are amazing - they're great to work alongside."

After training from NHS staff he started delivering vaccines and believes that the target set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson is achievable .

"It's worrying, it's very nerve-racking, but after the first one you just get used to it. The team here are working non stop, working long hours, so I think the target will be met."

Stephen Benton, who received his booster jab from senior aircraftsman Barker said he was fully behind the RAF and other armed forces helping out.

He said: "I think it's important as I want to be protected and from what I've seen of people getting Covid it's really nasty. I want to see my parents at Christmas, and I didn't feel a thing.

"I feel this may be an ongoing thing and the more people doing it the better."

The NHS is appealing for more people to come forward at vaccination centres across the country.

In Essex, an urgent appeal has been issued for people to help with duties such as being a steward or providing administrative support.

Lorretta Freeman used to work in retail and volunteered to help out after her mother died during the first lockdown. This week she has been trained to be a vaccinator.

She said: "Like most of us, when Covid first happened, most people wanted to do whatever they could to help, and for me my mother's death made me really rethink about my career. The NHS was obvious for me to come and work for.

"I've done a variety of things from admin to office work and the opportunity came up for me to be a vaccinator I jumped at the chance."

Helen Ringer has been volunteering for the past 9 months Credit: ITV Anglia

Helen Ringer is self employed and has been volunteering in Stevenage for the past nine months. She said she felt it was vital to get the booster programme completed so lives can get back to normal.

She said: "I know the only way out of Covid is through the vaccines. I steward in the car park and in the centre, directing people in and out. It's really busy and I think the more people that can help the quicker we'll be through it and out the other side, so that's why I do it.

The NHS is hoping more people like Helen can come forward, with shifts from four hours to all day available.

Cath Slater, deputy director of nursing at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, who is helping to run a vaccination centre, said it had been a team effort.

"We've had to look really creatively at using a range of people to help us deliver that very ambitious task," she said.

"It's great we've been joined by colleagues from St John Ambulance, the armed forces, and volunteers as well as some of our own staff who've been in non clinical settings."