After months of suffering through the pandemic, the end is finally in sight. With the approval of 3 major vaccines in the UK in the past few weeks, namely the Oxford-AstraZeneca developed one, the plan to vaccinate the country has quickly swung into full force. However, with the current priority list of the government, beginning with the elderly and vulnerable and then coming to young people as a later priority, it is no surprise that most of our peers are nowhere near getting the vaccine, that is of course, unless you happen to be a care home worker.
We asked 2 students who currently work at a care home – Jemima Storey and Anna Wilderspin – to share their experience being amongst some of the first people to receive the vaccine in the country.
I worked in an old people’s home as a carer before coming to Oxford. When I was asking for work over the Christmas vacation, I never imagined I would be one of the first people in the country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I went to Milton Keynes hospital on 13th December, where I was welcomed by a volunteer who told me the best news possible: free parking. The admin process was a bit lengthy, having to register at three different stations. I spoke to a GP who made sure that I wasn’t allergic to anything in the vaccine, and she made it very clear that they were not injecting me with Covid-19.
The actual injection took a matter of seconds and was probably the least painful vaccination I’ve ever had, though my arm hurt like hell the next day. I had to wait around for 15 minutes after in case I had a bad reaction, after which I drove home very happy. My second dose, due 8th January, has since been postponed to mid-February after the decision to offer a single dose to more people. While I can technically still transmit the virus, I feel so grateful to know that I will not become ill from COVID-19. We are so close to being able to protect the most vulnerable people in society with this vaccine, so I just hope that people can stick out this next lockdown without breaking the rules and spreading the virus further.
I began working at my local care home at the beginning of May 2019. It is a large home with approximately 70 elderly residents. During the six months I worked there before attending Oxford there were no cases of corona amongst both staff and residents. All staff members were tested weekly. However, the resident’s lives were completely disrupted by the pandemic. No visitors were allowed in the home for months, I would often see residents tearing up while speaking to loved ones through the windows longing for a hug.
Upon returning to work this December, all staff members were encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Many staff members went to be vaccinated but others were apprehensive due to news headlines and rumours. As a biochemist, I trust the vaccine has been properly tested and was keen to have it. I did a lot of research on whether having the vaccine stops you transmitting the virus to others. However, as expected this is still not fully understood.
I booked my appointment for the 11th of December and drove myself to the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Upon arrival I was asked for proof of my employment and to fill out a consent form. I was called into a room where I spoke with a doctor. I was informed of the side effects: tiredness, muscle pain, nausea etc. The doctor was surprised when he read my date of birth and it began with 2000 as so few young people have received the vaccine thus far. The injection was not painful. I experienced a sore arm for two days after but no other side effects. I am confident it was the right decision to get the vaccine. I hope with the approval of the Oxford vaccine, that it will soon be given to vulnerable residents living in care homes to enable their lives to go back to some glimpse of normality.