Three members of staff at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) have become the first in the Trust to have the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Jen Hall, Paramedic Team Leader, and Scott Cawley, Emergency Care Assistant, both based at The Blue Light Hub in Milton Keynes, and Sandie Jackson, Hospital Liaison Officer based at the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Guildford, have all had the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sandie, who works for the SCAS Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service in Surrey and was the first staff member in SCAS to be vaccinated, said:
“I have been the Hospital Liaison Officer at the Royal Surrey for the past year, and what a year it has been! The hospital’s vaccination hub went live on 8 December and a week later the vaccine was offered to myself and other patient facing healthcare workers based on the hospital site.
My role takes me into A&E and all ward and clinic areas in the hospital, so my decision to have the vaccine was never in doubt as I need to keep my patients, my colleagues and of course myself, as safe as possible.”
Jen and Scott both work for SCAS’ emergency ambulance service and were invited to attend the vaccination hub at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. They met the criteria of clinically vulnerable healthcare workers to qualify for them to be vaccinated in this first wave, along with people aged 80 and over and care home workers.
Jen was very keen to explain why having the COVID-19 vaccine is so important to her, adding:
“I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 37-years-old, which was a complete shock and it has led me to have some very low moments. Since then I’ve been managing my condition alongside the demands of being a frontline paramedic. It’s impossible to explain why I’m fine one day and the next I can be in excruciating pain, or not able to physically do everything I need to do when on the job.
“My manager and team have been incredibly supportive, and I am fortunate enough to have a great medical team around me. I have learnt to manage my bad days and whilst the condition is pants, they are pants I can wear! Because I’m prescribed immunosuppressants to help manage my rheumatoid arthritis, I am at high risk of developing an infection. It was therefore a no-brainer to accept the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it became available as it not only protects me, but also my patients and my colleagues.”
Scott, who works in Milton Keynes alongside Jen, added:
“Unfortunately I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in December 2019, so I’ve had to shield a couple of times this year whilst I was having BCG immunotherapy treatment. Thanks to the tremendous support of my Team Leader, Siobhan, and the whole team at Milton Keynes, it’s made a daunting situation less daunting.
“Having the COVID-19 vaccine will give me back control of my recovery and I would urge anyone who is given the opportunity of having the vaccine to take it. It’s a painless process but can help save so many lives as together we can all play our part in defeating this pandemic.
“I consider myself very lucky to be amongst the first to have the vaccine given the massive immunisation programme ahead of the NHS.”
Mark Begley, Head of Operations for Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale, said:
“Our staff are SCAS’ most valuable asset and therefore anything we can do or support to ensure their health and wellbeing is our top priority. The vaccination programme is a positive step along with other measures already implemented across SCAS that will help to keep our staff safe and well, allowing them to do what they are brilliant at – looking after patients who need our services.
I would like to express my thanks on behalf of SCAS to our hospital partners who have opened up their vaccination programmes to our clinically vulnerable staff and those whose roles are based on hospital sites.”
Sandie, Jen and Scott are due to have their second and final vaccine dose 21 days after their first.
Notes for editors:
- The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in the UK having met the strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
- Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
- At first, the vaccine is being offered to people who are most at risk from coronavirus, before being offered more widely: people aged 80 and over, care home workers, NHS staff who have been assessed as being at highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19