'Volunteering at a Covid vaccine centre is a great morning out'

People queue to enter a covid vaccination event at Heaven nightclub in central London. Picture date:

Volunteers have been important at vaccination centres - Credit: PA

I’d had my high-vis jacket hanging by the front door for a while.

Every time I thought about actually stewarding at a Covid vaccination centre something had come up which seemed to take up my time. Stewarding fell into the important-but-not-urgent box. But eventually, in light of soaring infection numbers, I decided to get on my app, book a slot, get to a vaccination centre and actually wear the sleeveless, NHS branded, unmissable, yellow jacket.

I arrived for my shift at Camden’s Bidborough House slightly nervous. When I had my own original vaccinations at the Royal Free Rec Centre, the volunteers outside were so confident, helpful, even poised. They knew all the answers and managed to keep smiling despite the freezing cold, the vast numbers of people and the anxiety around Covid itself.

Laura Marks OBE

Laura Marks volunteered at a Camden vaccine centre - Credit: Laura Marks

My allocated slot was outside with the queue, one for people with appointments and one for opportunistic Walk Ins. I was briefed by Kevin, an NHS staff member, and started directing the arrivals into the two queues, checking they were at the right vaccination centre, finding masks for people who forgot one, bringing a child of 12 who was terrified, a man with disabilities and a needle phobic teenager to the front.

The queue length ebbed and flowed, sometimes down to nothing and then suddenly round the block but throughout my shift, no one complained, no one got cross and everyone smiled.

I logged-off after a couple of hours, darted round to the back door for the loo, grabbed a coffee and paused to listen to relieved and smiling people emerging at the exit, but despite my fingers feeling a bit numb with the cold, I finished my shift in great spirits. Like everyone else, I’m desperate for the pandemic to be over, for us to return to gatherings, meetings, parties and fun with friends but to get there, vaccination does seem essential. With such wonderful local providers, and NHS staff, it's easy, super-helpful and almost, dare I say, a great morning out.

Laura Marks OBE is founder of Mitzvah Day, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and an interfaith consultant – commongood.uk.com