Vaccine volunteers 'backbone' of Somerset immunisation programme

Thelma Bridge from Glastonbury awaits her vaccine. Credit: ITV News

Volunteers have been hailed as the "backbone" of the immunisation programme in Somerset, as the second mass vaccination centre opened in the county at the Royal Bath and West Showground.

On Monday the new site vaccinated more than 400 patients. Caroline Upton, Clinical Lead at the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, says the centre relies on volunteers to function efficiently.

"Volunteers are the backbone of the service. Clinicians do the vaccinating and the assessing. But volunteers are the people who help the patients navigate the site and guide them through the process. They are pivotal to what we are doing," says Caroline.

On Tuesday Thelma Bridge from Glastonbury was one of hundreds of people to be vaccinated.

She says, "It’s wonderful. It’s so well organised, it’s marvellous. I’m very, very lucky to have been offered it so early. I was a bit nervous I must say, but it’d be stupid not too wouldn’t it.”

Clinical Lead Caroline Upton says volunteers play a crucial role.

Bosses say the efficient organisation is largely down to a small army of unpaid volunteers who help guide patients through the site safely. It means the centre can stay open 7 days a week and clinical staff can focus on assessing and vaccinating.

Volunteer Michelle Fairweather says, "We need to get people in and out very quickly and take their coats off, arms free so that we can inject them quickly and get the flow going. I wanted to do something. I'm young enough and energetic enough to be able to do something like this so this is why I wanted to be involved."

One of many people to benefit from the new centre was 102-year-old John Hamilton.

He says, "I didn't feel anything - but mentally I was a bit nervous about it, thinking it was going to be uncomfortable, but it was alright."

It is hoped thousands of people will be vaccinated at the Royal Bath and West Showground over the coming weeks and months.

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