HE’S a TV host with a 20-year career — but to many of OAPs arriving for their vaccine, Vernon Kay was just another friendly faced steward.
Joining The Sun’s Jabs Army in his home town of Bolton, Vernon began his day taking temperatures with a hand-held device to ensure patients were well.
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And while some recognised the man behind the mask, a couple muddled him up with comic Peter Kay, a fellow Boltonian, after which Vernon joked: “Only when he’s been on a diet!”
Vernon, 46, was helping out at Bolton Wanderers’ stadium, which is among the country’s larger vaccine sites. He went to school, and married, nearby.
He was keen to join our 50,000-strong Jabs Army of volunteers doing their bit to assist the rollout across the UK.
Vernon said: “I wanted to help out. There’s such a Dunkirk spirit about the whole drive.
“This vaccine and the volunteers are a shining light. It’s a way out of this pandemic and that’s what we really need.”
A team of eight jab around 400 people at day at the site with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. So far, around 47,000 people have had their first dose.
During a break, Vernon met Dr Helen Wall, who has set up eight vaccine sites across the town since December 14.
She said: “It’s been a mission getting this all set up, but we’ve smashed it. We’ve been targeting the most vulnerable people and we’re on target to have all our over-70s done by February 15.
“We were laughing earlier after one lady came in for her vaccination and brought the staff and volunteers a box of chocolates. That’s what they do here.
“Every single site in Bolton is getting KFCs, Domino’s, chocolates . . . absolutely masses of gifts because people are feeling so hopeful again.
“That helps the staff as it makes them feel they’re doing something people want. Often in the NHS, we don’t feel like we are able to give exactly what people need.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved.”
'FIGHTING BACK TEARS'
Fighting back tears, she continued: “You see people’s relief when they come in with their loved ones.
“Often they’re crying because they’re finally getting the vaccine. They finally know things are getting better.
“We are doing this to save lives and return to normal and I have to thank everyone who has been involved in this centre, especially all the volunteers.
“They are committed to making a difference and getting this vaccine out.”
Tasks for the volunteers also include walking frail patients to and from their transport, keeping them company while they wait and walking them back.
Dr Wall said: “We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Back on shift, Vernon worked with Alison Ascroft, 56, whose dad died of Covid last October.
Hairdresser Alison told him: “I signed up because I know how important this rollout is.
“I know my dad would be so proud of me being here and helping out. I’m really loving it.”
Fellow volunteer Mark Pimblett, 56, fits his shifts around his work for the Probation Service. He said: “It’s nice to know we’re making a difference, even if we’re only directing people to the correct place. They always thank us — which we don’t always get in normal jobs!”
Vernon headed back inside to help shepherd people through the one-way system after their jabs, and chat to those waiting.
He told them about his time on I’m a Celebrity, and life in lockdown with Strictly host wife Tess Daly, 51, and daughters, Phoebe, 16 and Amber 11.
HOW TO REGISTER
TO register interest, visit nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/nextinline.
You will be contacted as soon as a suitable volunteer role becomes available in your area.
Other roles available may include Patient Transport, Community Response (shopping and medicine delivery), NHS Transport, Check in and Chat.
- Register at: nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/nextinline
Call to arms – how MPs, celebs and big businesses backed our campaign
A HOST of celebs and politicians threw their weight behind Jabs Army as they praised kind-hearted Sun readers who signed up.
Their calls were led by Boris Johnson, who begged for volunteers to help 'return the country to normal life'.
The PM wrote personally to our readers, saying: "The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is a brilliant example of the power of collective action.
"It has already inspired companies and workplaces up and down the country to join the call to arms.
"So today, I call on everyone who has the time to join the legions of volunteers already signed up and to boost volunteer numbers further still."
Jeremy Clarkson urged Brits to get off the sofa and sign up to beat the lockdown blues.
He said: “Everyone is saying how bored they are. They’ve watched Netflix, gone through everything on the internet, read Google.
“Well let’s not be bored — let’s get off our bottoms and volunteer.”
His call was backed by a string of other celebs – including the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, who hailed our campaign as “fantastic”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock saluted Jabs Army as he addressed the nation in a No10 press briefing.
He said: "Come and be a part of it. The Sun’s Jabs Army is marching and helping the nation.”
GMB host Piers Morgan branded the campaign as "excellent".
While celebrities like Bear Grylls, Gordon Ramsay and Bake Off's Matt Lucas have also thrown their support behind the campaign.
Reflecting on his day, he said: “It’s been really uplifting. Speaking to fellow Boltonians is like chatting to aunts and uncles. Everyone here is on the same wavelength.
“I’ve had some really emotional conversations and I’ve loved seeing people leave full of hope after their jab. I can’t thank the people making this possible enough.
“We couldn’t get out of the pandemic without them.”
SAFETY for our Jab Army volunteers is paramount.
Here we answer your questions about how you will be protected while working as a Steward Volunteer in a vaccine centre:
When I do my voluntary duty will I be safe from catching Covid?
Volunteer and patient safety is the NHS and Royal Voluntary Services’ top priority.
While is no upper age limit for volunteering but being a Steward Volunteer is a frontline role and is not for anyone who is in a medium or high-risk category.
Team leaders will ensure volunteers have the correct equipment to keep them safe at all times and social distancing will be in place throughout volunteer shifts.
There are lots of other volunteering roles available on the website.
Will I be asked to wear PPE?
Yes, the safety of volunteers is extremely important and you will be provided with appropriate PPE at the vaccination centres by your team leader.
Will I come in direct contact with patients?
One of the key jobs of our Steward Volunteers is to make sure people queuing up to receive their jabs are keeping to a safe social distance.
This is also includes yourself, so, where possible you will be two metres away from patients and other volunteers.
What training will I be given?
You will be provided with a comprehensive ‘Getting You Started guide’ to explain everything that is required on site.
As this is a non-clinical role, no specific training is required and once you arrive on site, team leaders will take you through a site introduction and briefing.
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