Teen with Down’s syndrome urges people to 'be brave' and get vaccinated against Covid-19

Emma James-Jenkinson, a performing arts student from Sefton, is sharing her Covid-19 vaccination story during World Immunisation Week (24-30 April), in the hope that it will inspire others who are anxious or scared to ‘be brave’ and get their jab.

Emma, 17, who has Down’s syndrome, had severe anxiety about getting her first Covid-19 vaccination and initially refused to go for her jab after receiving a text message inviting her to book an appointment.

Unsure how to help her daughter, Emma’s mum Lynn James-Jenkinson reached out to NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and North Park Health Centre in Bootle, who went the extra mile to help Emma get vaccinated.

Speaking about her experience, Emma said:

She continued: “After I got my vaccine, everyone started clapping and I felt so happy and proud for being brave.”

After overhearing Emma reassuring and motivate herself to ‘be brave’ even though the jab might ‘hurt a little bit’, Lynn reached out to Cathy Riley, practice manager at North Park Health Centre, who offered to see Emma right away and work with her to ensure they found a way to get vaccinated safely and calmly.

Cathy even offered to come out to the car park to arrange to give Emma her vaccine without her having to get out of the car.

Despite making it into the practice, Emma felt scared again when she saw the needle, but the practice nurse helped her to overcome her anxiety by letting Emma hold her hand and doing some breathing exercises together to stay calm.

They also watched YouTube videos and sang along to one of Emma’s favourite songs, ‘The Schuyler Sisters’, from the hit musical ‘Hamilton’, before administering the vaccine quickly and painlessly, much to everyone’s relief.

Emma’s mum, Lynn, said: “Cathy and the team at North Park Health Centre were so friendly. The ‘human touch’ that they brought to our unique situation really helped us both. We felt like we were really listened to, and I can’t thank them enough.”

“I am happy knowing Emma feels safe to go out again and can get back to being a ‘young person’ and doing the things she enjoys.”

Cathy Riley, practice manager at North Park Health Centre said:

She continued: “She is proof that if you face your fears, you can conquer anything.”

World Immunisation Week (24 – 30 April) is led by the World Health Organisation annually in the last week of April and aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.