Covid-19 Vaccine: Portraits of Hope

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As Covid-19 vaccinations began last week across the UK, I was granted access to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to meet some of those administering and receiving the jab. What follows is the piece I wrote for the BBC.

Prof Nancy Fontaine

“It feels like a Dunkirk spirit here in Norwich today,” says Prof Nancy Fontaine, the hospital’s chief nurse and director for infection prevention and control.

The hospital is one of two in Norfolk to start delivering the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

She says it has been an “incredible ask” to roll out the “ground-breaking” vaccination programme.

Prof Fontaine describes the team at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), which includes an army of volunteers who came forward to help, as “an organised, battle-ready workforce” who are “waiting for you”.

Like elsewhere, the hospital is rolling out the vaccine to the “most vulnerable” first: the over-80s, those in care homes and care home staff.

It has different time slots for the three different groups, with the over-80s being treated from 08:00 GMT until 15:00.

By lunchtime, staff had already vaccinated 300 people, who must return in 21 days for their second jab.

Hillary Winch

Head of workplace health

She describes the rollout as a “mammoth joint operation” by different departments of the NNUH but also primary care colleagues, including GPs. 

She says although staff were “quite excited” when the vaccine arrived, they were also “a little bit nervous”. 

“Of course, it was something very different and we hadn’t been used to dealing with but we were excited that at last we were on our way, and we can hopefully get the majority of Norfolk safe,” she says.

Ms Winch, who, administered some of the jabs herself, says: “The drawing-up technique is slightly different so we’ve been doing some preparing, training and learning, but once you’ve done a couple, you’re good to go.”

Janet King

Among those receiving the vaccine is Janet King, who says: “I’m over 80 now and I think it was really important to get the vaccination.

“I’d hate to get it (Covid). I am very grateful I’ve had it (the vaccination).”

Maureen Curson

Maureen Curson received her text message from her GP on Tuesday morning and rang the surgery to make the appointment.

The 81-year-old, whose son-in-law and grandson have both had the virus, says she was “pleased but a bit apprehensive” when she was invited to have the vaccine.

But after going to the hospital, she says she feels “reassured” and that she had made the right decision.

Also having the injection is Pamela, who asked for her surname to be withheld.

Referring to her daughter, she says: “I’ve not been nervous about it because I’ve brought my own nurse with me.

“It was just like having the ‘flu jab, really. I think we’re very lucky to be able to have it. Hopefully things will start getting back to normal soon.

“I’m lucky because I’ve got good neighbours and good family. You’ve just all got to pull together really, haven’t you?”

Pamela before receiving her injection

She describes the nurses administering the vaccine as “amazing people who have continued to do their jobs under all this pressure”.

In the week to 4 December, across Norfolk there were 98.8 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people.

The NNUH says it currently has about 60 patients being treated for the virus, plus a dozen more who have been in the hospital with the virus for more than 14 days.

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