Students working on the pandemic frontlines are getting their vaccines

‘It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel’

Students working on the pandemic frontlines are getting the Covid-19 vaccine and are absolutely buzzing about it.

While most students will have to wait months for the jab, those working in care homes, hospitals, and other frontline health jobs have found themselves at the front of the queue. And the vaccine has come as a huge relief for those students.

“Everyone is so happy to be vaccinated because it’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Maria Skaria, a Birmingham student working in a hospital as part of her placement. She described the situation in the hospital as “dire”, with most wards being converted to deal solely with Covid patients.

Maria received the Pfizer jab on her first day back in hospital. She says it took less than 30 seconds.

“Vaccinations take place in the main part of the hospital as soon as you come in,” said Maria. ‘There are really friendly volunteers throughout who will ask for consent, inform you of risks and take you to the right place.”

After her jab, Maria was taken to a waiting room in case she had side effects, and given an appointment for her second dose.

As of this morning, 3.5 million people in England have had their first dose of the vaccine. No statistics are available for under-25s, let alone students – the NHS just breaks numbers down into those older and younger than 80 years old.

Liverpool John Moores student Liv Park is training to be a children’s nurse. She had the Pfizer jab at Alder Hey children’s hospital last week. “I felt absolutely fine, my attitudes haven’t changed yet, as the with the first vaccine on its own it’s not as effective so I am still sticking completely to lockdown rules,” she told The Tab.

At the start of the pandemic, wanting to help out, Rosie Boulton signed up as a call assessor for the West Midlands Ambulance Service. She kept the job when she went back to Birmingham Uni for the second year of her medicine degree, and got her first dose on 15th December. Originally scheduled for 12th Jan, her second dose has been pushed back to 23rd Feb.

“I was pleased to have received it and do my bit towards protecting not only myself, but also friends, family and the wider public,” she told The Tab.

Along with residents of care homes for older adults, staff in those homes are the highest priority group for the vaccine. Over-80s and frontline health and social care workers are the second priority group. Younger people as a demographic are the lowest priority, meaning they’ll get the vaccine after everyone else – unless they’re clinically vulnerable.

Zaid Al-Hilali has been doing hospital placements as part of his pharmacy degree at Birmingham.

“I don’t think there was anyone within 30 years of my age,” he said of the Aldershot town hall where he got his dose.

His work in pharmacies helped him overcome the squeamishness of the vaccine. “The process was fairly quick, especially when you are familiar with vaccines and needles like myself,” he said.

“I felt very very fortunate to be getting the vaccine and I really appreciate all the work NHS workers have been doing.”

Helen Padgett works as a care home cleaner and got her first vaccine dose on Christmas Eve. “I don’t like needles at all but the setup for jabbing people was super slick,” she said. “Everyone was really festive because they finished at lunch for Christmas.”

Luckily, her home has avoided any Covid cases, but the rollout of the vaccine has still brought some hope. “It’s hard for the residents not to touch their families when they come to visit, and some struggle hearing or seeing their visitors from a distance,” said Helen.

“I think the vaccine is one of the first tangible steps we’ve felt at the care home that will help things rather than just respond to what’s going on in the outside world.”

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