CLUTCHING her husband’s arm, the woman has tears pouring down her face.
She has an acute needle phobia and it has taken six weeks for him to persuade her to come.
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A few minutes later, an elderly man reaches the front of the queue.
“Are you here for your second jab?” I ask.
He doesn’t speak English, but his daughter explains that this will be his first vaccination because it’s taken him this long to decide to have it.
I use the universal language of a thumbs-up and he grins broadly. Both he and the needle-phobic lady are whisked off to a private area by the incredible vaccination team, ever sensitive to people’s individual concerns.
But for the most part, the queue is heavily populated by those desperate to get jabbed and free themselves from the constraints of a pandemic that has taken its toll on everyone.
Be it the pizza chef (who arrives in his whites) keen to fly home and see his family in Italy for the first time in 18 months, or the heavily pregnant woman who wants to be able to take her baby to meet her mum in the US as soon as she feasibly can, many of those I encounter during my six-hour volunteer shift at London’s Battersea Arts Centre are eulogising at how efficient the vaccine rollout has been in the UK.
Sign up at nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk
They’re right. If the team that run BAC are anything to go by, then it’s not hard to see why.
Manned by a combination of NHS medics and furloughed BA and Virgin cabin crew, the vaccination section is a well-oiled machine, with logistical back-up provided by BAC staff.
Then volunteers like me (signing up via the GoodSam app) assist where we can.
Last week, my job was to stand at the head of the queue and ensure everyone removed their jackets and disinfected their hands before going in for the AstraZeneca jab.
The week before, it was Pfizer, which requires a 15-minute wait afterwards, so my job was disinfecting chairs between sittings.
But all volunteer tasks place you in the centre of the action, be it chatting to the general public or, in the case of BAC, having a ten-minute break in the tea room with the incredible team.
‘I FEEL A MIX OF EMOTION & PRIDE’
Whenever a new consignment of vaccines arrives on a trolley, I feel a mix of emotion and pride.
So, as The Sun stated yesterday, more volunteers are needed across the country to help tackle the threat the Indian variant places on our “freedom day” of June 21 and, as you may have guessed, I can’t recommend it highly enough as a way to do your bit.
Ironically, just a couple of days after my latest volunteer shift, I found myself inadvertently caught up in the anti-vax/lockdown march when my youngest daughter and I went on a shopping trip and our bus ground to a halt.
As we disembarked into the throng, we decided we may as well visit a nearby Zara (as you do) but found ourselves having to join the flow of the march to be able to get to it.
As we entered another shop along the way, a woman followed us inside and berated me for putting on a mask.
“Do you like being muzzled?” she asked.
“Not particularly,” I replied, “But right now, those are the rules.”
She tried to hand me a newspaper called The Light with the front page headline, “What pandemic?” but I refused to take it.
“How can you deny there’s a pandemic?” I said. “Are all those people who work in Covid wards lying?”
She made a scoffing noise and walked off, prompting the shop assistant to say with a shrug: “She only wants you to listen to her point of view. She doesn’t want to hear yours.”
He was right. And, to be honest, trying to persuade someone to have a vaccine when they don’t even believe there’s been a pandemic is a pointless exercise.
But they can’t have it both ways. Many of them were marching against the idea of a “vaccine passport”, presumably because they know it would curtail their freedoms.
Sign up today
TO sign up with the Royal Voluntary Service, which organises our Jabs Army shifts, register by scanning the QR code below with your phone, or visit the website.
And if you are one of the existing 50,000 recruits but have not yet been able to do any shifts, find out where you are needed by clicking on your GoodSAM app.
Make sure the Location setting is enabled on your phone
Click on the Future Tasks tab and volunteering shifts available in your area will appear.
If there is one you can do, click Accept.
It will give details of vaccination centres and when and where to report.
- GO TO: nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk
But what about the freedom of those of us who have been jabbed?
Getting vaccinated has given us hope of a return to the normality of going on holiday, attending concerts and watching a theatre performance, not to mention rebooting the livelihoods of all those who work in those sectors.
So why should we all be held hostage by the choices of those who refuse to be vaccinated and leave themselves (and the rest of us) at the mercy of surges in new variants?
No, our freedoms must be restored, as promised, on June 21, not delayed because of jab refuseniks.
That’s why rolling out the vaccine to the younger generations is now more important than ever, to build up the all-important herd immunity that will facilitate a return to our pre-pandemic lives.
Already, there are vast queues of under-35s building up at various walk-in centres around the country, and The Sun’s Jabs Army needs YOU to keep the next phase of the vaccine rollout running smoothly. Please sign up if you can. You won’t regret it.
50 towns, cities and council areas where the Jabs Army needs you now
- Barking and Dagenham, Essex
- Barnet, North London
- Birmingham, West Midlands
- Bolton, Greater Manchester
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, Dorset
- Bradford, West Yorks
- Brent, West London
- Camden, North London
- Cannock Chase, Staffs
- Chelmsford, Essex
- Cheshire West & Chester
- Colchester, Essex
- Croydon, South London
- Dudley, West Midlands
- Ealing, West London
- Fenland, Cambs
- Hammersmith & Fulham,
- West London
- Hillingdon, West London
- Hounslow, West London
- Kensington and Chelsea, London
- Knowsley, Merseyside
- Lambeth, South London
- Merton, South London
- Newark & Sherwood, Notts
- North Norfolk
- North Somerset
- Peterborough, Cambs
- Preston, Lancs
- Rochdale, Greater Manchester
- Salford, Greater Manchester
- Sandwell, West Midlands
- Slough, Berks
- Stafford, Staffs
- Sutton, South London
- Tendring, Essex
- Walsall, West Midlands
- Wandsworth, South West London
- Wigan, Greater Manchester
- Wirrall, Merseyside
- Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Carrie on as usual
Carrie Symonds is now Carrie Johnson and will attend the forthcoming G7 summit as Britain’s official “First Lady” rather than the PM’s fiancée, or “girlfriend”, as Dominic Cummings insisted on describing her.
According to the bride’s “friends”, the low-key wedding at the weekend was one in the eye for Boris Johnson’s dismissive former adviser, but was it really?
After all, the assumption that a woman’s status escalates once she’s married rather jars with the hard fought, modern-day acceptance that women are men’s equals.
And when did you ever hear someone heave a sigh of relief that a man could now describe himself as “husband” rather than “boyfriend”?
Yet the word “girlfriend” remains troublesome for those of my friends who are dating yet unmarried.
“I’m too old to be a ‘girlfriend’,” reckons one.
She feels the word “partner” sounds like they’re in business together, so has opted for “my other half” when doing introductions.
When The Bloke and I were dating, he always introduced me as, “This is the missus – don’t laugh”, a joke (I hope) he carried on to our wedded years too.
But of course, any awkwardness could be avoided if we all simply adopted the most egalitarian introduction of all – our first names.
Catch, identify, then release
A REPORT this week stated that Britain’s attitude towards moths is changing – with 20,000 dedicated “mothing” experts buying traps to “catch, identify, then release” them.
As one of their ranks has just munched a hole in the front of my favourite cashmere jumper, I’m all for it . . . apart from the “release” part.
To be Blunt, Haz is a moaner
Prince Harry continually depicts the UK – and London in particular – as a hotbed of paparazzi chasing his every move.
Hmmm. Singing superstar Rihanna lives here and you rarely see her, so too does Janet Jackson and Hollywood heart-throb George Clooney, who are largely left alone.
And now it’s been revealed that actor Kevin Spacey has been living here “under the radar” for the past two years.
None of these people, it should be noted, have the “royal protection” that Harry enjoyed on these shores.
Meanwhile, Brit actress Emily Blunt says she moved back from the US to spend lockdown here with American husband John Krasinski and their two young daughters.
“To be honest, there really has been no better place to be during all of this,” says the Mary Poppins star.
“There’s something so shoulder-shruggy and reassuring about the Brits during a crisis . . . the Brits are really good at getting in line and just going, ‘Yeah, it’s bad isn’t it?’ We’re quite practical.”
Isn’t it nice to hear someone famous praising their home country rather than constantly whingeing about it?
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