A salute to our vaccination teams in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin
The 8th of December 2022 marked the two-year anniversary since the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in NHS history. Since then, the primary call to action has been to roll up your sleeves and get jabbed, with thousands coming forward for their vaccines every day at the height of the pandemic. But, how often have we taken the time to step back and appreciate the incredible team behind the needles in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin.
Every single member of our vaccination team is without a doubt an unsung hero for helping the region get back on its feet and kicking Covid to the curb. Without them, who knows where we would be? Those who have administered vaccines throughout the pandemic deserve a particular mention. There are a number but the two we want to highlight today are Linda Hart, Clinical Team Lead and Sharmila Samrai, Woodside Pharmacy Manager.
Linda Hart, who started the Covid-19 vaccination programme as a Staff Nurse on 8 December 2020 and is now Clinical Team Lead in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin has seen the evolution of the vaccination programme first-hand, said: “Our knowledge and understanding of the vaccine have evolved greatly over the last two years. With time, the initially sceptical groups such as pregnant women have become much easier to reassure regarding the benefits of the vaccine.”
“I think the fact the vaccine has allowed society to keep going, especially once we started to offer vaccines to school children was a huge moment over the last two years. The programme is at the stage now where we are able to help GP practices, some of which have handed over their Covid vaccinations, housebound patients and care homes to us allowing GPs to focus on other priorities.”
Linda also reflected on how things have changed for her over the last two years. “The first site I was based at was the Hospital Hub Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in the Shropshire Conference Centre. At the start of the pandemic, we were vaccinating 1500 people a day from 8am to 10pm. When you look back now you can’t believe it!”
“My role has evolved a huge amount since the pandemic began. I started off as a nurse administering the vaccines, whereas I’ve now moved into a management role where I liaise with the Council to arrange vaccine clinics for the most vulnerable people in our communities. I really enjoy being part of the logistical side of things because I take great pride in playing a part in bringing the vaccines to the vulnerable groups and harder-to-reach communities via fire stations and the vaccination bus.”
Woodside Pharmacy in Telford was notably part of vaccination history as it became one of the first pharmacies in the country to start vaccinating people against Covid-19. Reflecting on the last two years, Sharmila Samrai, Woodside Pharmacy Manager, said: “Almost 2 years ago, Woodside pharmacy owner, Mr Samrai asked myself (Operations Director) & Sanjeev (Superintendent Pharmacist) whether we would like to open up and run a vaccination centre. We were so busy with our daily jobs during the pandemic at both of our pharmacies, how could we make room for something as huge as this? Pretty soon however we realised just how essential it was for us to act quickly and start vaccinating to protect as many people as possible, so we set about planning - and the rest is history!
“Since January 2021, Woodside pharmacy have vaccinated close to 90,000 patients, a huge achievement, amongst others. This has enabled our elderly population to start visiting their families again, many of whom to this day I can still remember. Patients aged 75 and over, including World War veterans gratefully coming to get vaccinated in their uniforms and saluting us for all our hard work, bereaved widows and widowers sitting with us in tears realising just how important it was to get the vaccine.
“We are honoured and privileged that Woodside Pharmacy was the first in England to start vaccinating against Covid-19, in doing so over the past few years we have helped ease the pressure on local GP surgeries and reduced the number of severe illnesses and hospitalisations within the community. Although we will not be administering from the community centre now, it’s not goodbye – we still aim to be vaccinating those that need 1st, 2nd or booster doses for the next few months.”
Steve Ellis, Programme and Service Director for Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin’s Vaccination Service, and has worked on the programme since the beginning, remarked: “We’re so lucky to have such dedicated and talented vaccination teams in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin who have helped deliver over 1.4 million vaccines in the county since 2020. Linda and Sharmila really encapsulate the incredible work that has taken place in what has been a whirlwind couple of years. NHS staff, GPs, nurses and pharmacists have worked tirelessly to protect the lives of thousands of people, I would like to thank each and every one of them for the vital part they have played. We are also immensely grateful to all the volunteers who have stepped forward to help protect our community.”