Somerset County Council and the NHS have paid tribute to all the fantastic volunteers supporting Somerset’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
More than 1,000 people have answered the call supporting 20 vaccination sites across the county including community-based locations, hospital hubs, some GP surgeries and large vaccination centres at Taunton Racecourse and the Bath & West Showground.
The vaccination programme is led by the NHS with support from Somerset County Council, district councils and partners.
Spark Somerset was asked to help recruit volunteers for roles such as stewarding and marshalling, meeting and greeting people as they arrive, and directing them to park safely.
Councillor Clare Paul, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health said: “I want to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers who have answered the call and are playing a key part in Somerset’s vaccination programme.
“It has been a real team effort with councils and partners across Somerset pulling out all the stops to support the NHS with this mammoth task.
“So much has been achieved but we have a long way to go and the role of volunteers will be crucial as the programme continues over the coming weeks and months. Together we will beat this virus and the spirit shown gives us real hope for the future.”
Andy Heron, joint senior responsible officer for the Covid-19 NHS Vaccination Programme in Somerset said: “We are so grateful for the phenomenal support that we have received from all our volunteers across the county. We have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come forward to give their time to support the vaccination programme and the dedication and positivity shared by each and every volunteer.
”Every day, volunteers have supported our vaccination sites in all weathers, helping the sites to run smoothly and provide an extra warm welcome to some of our most vulnerable residents having their vaccinations. We are very proud of the progress that we have made in the roll out of our local NHS vaccination programme over just a few weeks, and this has all been possible, thanks to the hard work and commitment from our health and care colleagues and our volunteers.”
Katherine Nolan, Chief Executive for Spark Somerset, said: “The response has been amazing, and the volunteers have played a part in helping the vaccination centre operations run smoothly. As well as the large vaccination centres, we’ve also been helping the community GP-led hubs to recruit volunteers where needed.
“The NHS is encouraging people to continue to apply if they would like to. The vaccination programme is going to last for several months and so to be able to call upon a large pool of volunteers will be beneficial. We can also put them in touch with any other opportunities that we know of.”
One of the volunteers who has been helping support the vaccination programme is Sarah, 38, a project manager who has been volunteering as a marshal at the Taunton Racecourse vaccination site.
Sarah said: “I chose to sign up as a vaccine marshal volunteer because I really wanted to do my bit. Although I work full-time during the week, I did have time at most weekends where I felt I could help.
“During my shifts at the vaccination centre I truly felt useful. There is a united feeling across all levels of contribution, that we are in this together and all making a difference. “Everyone who visits is genuinely so grateful for our help, even if that’s simply opening a door for them.”
Healthcare teams are working extremely hard to vaccinate the most vulnerable groups as quickly and safely as possible.
And please remember that the vaccine is designed to prevent serious illness or death. Even when vaccinated, you can still catch Coronavirus and may pass it onto others. Therefore, it’s vital everyone continues to remember to follow the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance.
The Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline number, 0300 790 6275, is open seven days a week from 8am to 6pm, offering a range of support – from help accessing food or medicines, to emotional and financial support, and employment, skills and business advice.