Vaccines: through the eyes of key workers

Frontline NHS workers have shared their experiences of being vaccinated against Covid-19 and are urging others to come forward and get their vaccines when they can

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Frontline NHS workers have shared their experiences of being vaccinated against Covid-19 and are urging others to come forward and get their vaccines when they can.

After the successful development of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines the UK roll-out has been moving steadily with key workers now receiving the dosages.

Naomi, 43, from Preston, is an advanced surgical practitioner and surgical first assistant who has recently received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, noting that the experience was “very efficient”, with the process taking around 45 minutes.

Naomi had been waiting to hear if she was eligible for the vaccine since 23 December but said she was in no rush as her colleagues in ICU needed it more than her.

She said: “I was sent an email containing a barcode, appointment time and venue, and asked to take forms of ID. After booking in I joined a queue of around 50 people. Everything was socially distanced and people wore face masks.

“The first room I entered was to give my consent to receiving the vaccination. I was given leaflets regarding side-effects and completed a short questionnaire covering my overall health.

“I joined the second queue for the vaccination room and again the side-effects were explained to me. My ID was checked again, then the vaccination was prepared.

“It was a swift injection, and I was asked to sit in another room for around 15 minutes to ensure I did not experience any initial side-effects. I was then free to leave and the next day I received an email with my second vaccination appointment information.”

Both vaccines share common side-effects such as arm pain, headaches, muscle aches, chills and fatigue.

Concerns have grown over a new variant of the virus in the UK said to originate South Africa, with the gov.uk website ensuring that “additional surge testing and sequencing is being deployed in a number of locations where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found”.

Health secretary Matt Hancock is encouraging those in areas including the PR9 postcode in Southport – where door-to-door testing is now in place – to avoid leaving their homes even to visit the shops if they have supplies already in their home.

Despite these uncertain developments in variants, frontline key workers remain optimistic.

Naomi said: “As with other viruses there can be different strains. However, if we continue to progress in the development of ways to combat these, I hope we will be able to control it like the we do the strains of the seasonal flu virus.”

She also offered advice to those who may be nervous about receiving the vaccine.

She said: “For those who are nervous about putting something foreign in their bodies or are concerned about the theories surrounding the vaccine, you will put worse in your body in a dodgy takeaway after a night out.

“Jokes aside, vaccinations are for the good of the many. They are there to protect the vulnerable so we should as a collective take responsibility to do that.”

A recent study by Oxford University has revealed that the first initial dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab can offer protection against disease of 76 per cent for up to three months, and may even reduce transmission by 67 per cent, with this rising to 82.4 per cent after the second dose.

The UK has now vaccinated more than 10 million of its population, with the aim to have vaccinated all top priority groups by mid-February. Boris Johnson has recently suggested all people over 50 could be vaccinated by May.

Vaccine card and leaflet.
Image Credit: Ellie MacDonald.

Ellie MacDonald, 20, works as a housekeeper in a busy city hospital while also studying at Salford University. She admitted to concerns about the vaccine surrounding fertility in the future, as her colleagues trying for babies were advised not to have it.

“I was a bit apprehensive. There are rumours about fertility and things. I was a bit like, do I really want it? Obviously I want to have children in the future.”

She was encouraged by her colleagues at work including an emergency practitioner who helped her book the vaccine.

Ellie said he told her: “The more people that have it, the closer we’re going to be to getting out of this lockdown, so I just saw it as my way of doing my little bit.”

Her experience was similar to Naomi’s. She received barcodes, leaflets and all relevant information before receiving the vaccine and completed a health questionnaire with a vaccinator.

Ellie suffered mild side effects, she said. “I had a dead arm for probably two days, and I felt a bit tired. It’s literally the same side-effects I’d probably have from having the flu jab.”

Ellie also gave another perspective from her colleagues at the hospital, where one nurse told an emergency care technician he was scared to have the vaccine.

Ellie continued: “She was brutally honest and asked would you rather be ill for two or three days or would you want to be on a ventilator for three months?”

As a key worker, Ellie believes that she and her colleagues are rightly a priority in getting the vaccine.

“We’re working in it day in day out,” she said. “We should have a priority, obviously not over the vulnerable. I feel like it should be the vulnerable then us key workers who are working in it every day.”

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