Community champions and NHS staff attend Westminster Abbey thank you event

NHS staff and community champions from south west London attended a special thank you event at Westminster Abbey.

They were among GPs, pharmacists and other members of voluntary groups at Westminster Abbey on 23 March. The Abbey, which has been used as a vaccination centre pop up venue, hosted keynote speakers from across London.

The event took place just days after the NHS started to roll out its Spring Booster programme for people aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed. The NHS will invite people to arrange a jab through the national booking service when it is their turn. It can be accessed online at nhs.uk/covidvaccine or by calling 119.

More than three million Covid-19 vaccinations have been delivered in south west London. It’s never too late to get your 1st, 2nd or Booster dose. You can find details of local walk in times here: https://swlondonccg.nhs.uk/covid/vaccination-walk-in-clinics/

Among those attending the special Westminster Abbey event was Slawek Szczepanski, who works for the Polish Family Association in Merton. Slawek has worked as a Community Champion since day one of the programme. The association has taken part in information sharing, helped to design the vaccination service and set up pop up vaccination centres. Slawek said he “has been proud to see vaccination rates increase among people from Polish and Eastern European communities”. To those who have not yet been vaccinated, he says: “get one, it might save your life.”

Volunteers from Croydon’s CVA network said: “Our outreach engagement team has connected with thousands of people in Croydon and had lots of conversations about the Covid-19 vaccinations. We would encourage anyone that has not yet been vaccinated to speak to one of our team, go along for a chat at a centre or to come forward and have their jab. It’s never too late to be vaccinated.”

Jubee Matthews, a Health Champion from Sutton, has been working to reach out to people in the community about getting their vaccinations. She has gained the trust of local people and giving them the information and support needed to get the vaccination. Of one of the connections she made, she says: “I wanted to contact them because I knew many of their friends and family had not taken the vaccination. We supported them to come forward and have now become good friends with huge respect for each other – we call ourselves the vacci friends!”

Bernhard Kristifoe who has been working as a matron at Croydon’s Centrale Vaccination Centre reflected on the huge variety of each day at a vaccination site and the supportive team he works with. He recounted a story of a gentleman that visited the vaccination clinic with lots of questions. After giving him the information he needed, the individual went on to have all of their doses of the Covid-19 Vaccination.

Maria Harrington from Hounslow and Richmond Community Hospital and Jessica Lee Mcdowall from Kingston Hospital, who have been working on rolling out vaccinations for 12-15 year olds, said: “We were really proud to work collaboratively with Headteachers, Local Authorities, SWL CCG and our SWL Staffing Partners to deliver vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds. For anyone yet to have the vaccination please do go along to a vaccination centre – if you are worried, please be reassured that the teams are warm, welcoming and hugely experienced.”

Becky Board, Associate Director of Operations, who vaccinated the 1st London resident, at Croydon University Hospital on 8 December 2020, said: “It really is never too late to get vaccinated. We have strong evidence of how safe and effective the vaccinations are, working in the hospital I see it with my own eyes – people are not getting as sick thanks to the vaccination. It really is saving lives.”

Mohammad Hassan-Ally, a Clinical Pharmacist in Merton, recalls queues forming when those aged 25 and over were advised to come forward for their vaccine. He says “it’s never too late to get your vaccine, even if you haven’t had any of your doses, there are always clinicians on site to talk to you – there are more benefits than risks to having the vaccine!”

Dr Nicola Jones MBE, GP Lead for the south west London Covid-19 vaccination programme , said: “Vaccination is key to us all being able to move forward and live with COVID, keeping our community safe. It is our best form of defence against the virus – whether it’s your first, second or your booster dose that’s due, go and get your vaccine. It’s been fantastic to see the progress of the vaccination programme locally which could not have been delivered without the commitment of our staff, volunteers and partners.”