THE sun was shining as the Jabs Army put on their masks, rolled up their sleeves and took to vaccination centres across the country yesterday.
It was the first day the squads of helpers were aiding the national effort to beat the virus following the huge success of The Sun’s campaign.
The Jabs Army put on their masks, roll up their sleeves and get to workCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Rosyane Linton RN and Shadid Muhammad volunteer at the Wembley vaccination CentreCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
After we teamed up with the Royal Voluntary Service, our target of 50,000 readers answered our call in just 18 days.
Lucy Hubbard, who was helping people navigate the centre, said: “I signed up because I wanted to do something important, and in just one day it’s already been incredibly rewarding.
“I met a man who had been brought in for his jab by his son and they hadn’t seen each other in over a year. They were both really emotional and the son couldn’t wait to be able to hug his dad for the first time in months.
“Getting to see their joy alone has made volunteering worth it.”
The 32-year-old media worker, who has spent most of this year jobless, says getting to socialise with other people is one of the huge benefits of helping out.
She added: “The more people who volunteer, the quicker we can get this vaccine out and the sooner we will get back to normal life.
“It’s so rewarding, so if you fit the criteria and are healthy, I don’t know why you wouldn’t sign up.”
Helpers at the Olympic Office Centre will administer 800 jabs today and will be giving 4,000 by the end of next week.
It is normally an office block, but with many workers on furlough or working from home it has been transformed into a medical hub.
Volunteers only need to commit to two six-hour shifts per month and no experience or qualifications are needed.
Sir Thomas Hughes- Hallett, Chairman of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust, praised The Sun and our Jabs Army.
He said: “We couldn’t run these centres without the incredible volunteers.
“We’re a team here and without them it just wouldn’t be the same. It would be like fielding nine players on a football pitch. So many of the people who have come for their vaccine have told me what a comfort the volunteers are.
“The country faces an enormous task and volunteers are utterly critical for us to meet it.”
On-site yesterday there were 12 volunteers working across two shifts, doing everything from welcoming people to comforting them as they were jabbed.
Sir Thomas added: “The Jabs Army volunteers provide so much comfort to elderly patients and all the other people coming to get their vaccines.
“They let them know that there will be someone to help them out to their car or cab afterwards.
‘It’s amazing to be a part of this moment in history’ – Amar AssadCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
‘Go on give it a try. And it’s lovely getting out of the house!’ – James LeggettCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
‘We’re giving people light at the end of the tunnel’ – Stephanie BenelliCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
“They’re getting a lot out of it. Some of your volunteers are saying, ‘We’ve been stuck at home and now here we are in the community helping.’”
The trust has set up ten centres across North London in a matter of weeks.
At Wembley, NHS staff are giving the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which requires two jabs to be at maximum effectiveness.
Programme director Juliet Brown said the rush of volunteers helped to make the reality of mass vaccinations much easier.
She added: “If you had said to me a month ago, ‘You’ve got to mobilise ten mass vaccination centres in the next month’, I would have thought it was impossible. But everybody wants to help.
“The Jabs Army volunteers are extremely important. We’ve got a team of people who are all coming to help you to receive their vaccination but also to give hope to people.”
Stephanie Benelli, 28, signed up to be a volunteer after seeing her uncle die from the virus in March.
She said: “I wanted to give back to society and I think it’s really important for everyone to get together to tackle Covid head-on.
“Seeing the reality of what it can do made me really keen to do something to help fight it.
‘HELP THE COMMUNITY’
“I’ve been on furlough, so volunteering has given me something meaningful to do.
“We’re giving people a light at the end of the tunnel and they’re getting a chance to see people for the first time in almost a year.”
The volunteers are clearly identifiable in their bright orange high-vis vests as they help direct people around the one-way system.
The volunteers at Wembley included Amar Assad, who is just 18. She told us yesterday: “I signed up because I want us to beat this virus.
“It’s amazing to be part of a moment in history. Anyone thinking of signing up should do it.
“We’re the first country to roll out mass vaccinations. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?”
Fellow volunteer James Leggett, 25, has a track record of helping out the NHS as he signed up to be a hospital porter as a teenager.
He was manning the door yesterday and said of the experience: “It’s been great. People have been really friendly.
“I signed up because I want to help the community and the NHS. Plus it’s been lovely getting out of the house for once.
‘We couldn’t do this without incredible volunteers’ – Sir Thomas Hughes-HallettCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
‘In one day it’s already been really rewarding’ – Lucy HubbardCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
“It might seem like a small thing to do but the NHS gets the benefit and so do you. Give it a try.”
The Bingo Association is the latest company to back our campaign.
The firm’s CEO Miles Baron said: “We have 9,000 staff on hand ready to join the Jabs Army and our bingo clubs are a key part of their local communities, offering a large space and car parking to assist in any way we can.”
Also this week, 40 staff who work at three Hilton hotels in London have already completed 230 hours volunteering at the mass vaccination centre in Wembley.
Meredith Bevan, general manager of Hilton Wembley, who has already completed his second shift, said: “The vaccination centre is right on our doorstep so we all wanted to help.
“We are hoping to hit 1,000 hours this week. It’s a great way to get involved and help the country.”
Hilton follows in the footsteps of easyJet, M&S, Network Rail and TSB bank in supporting our campaign.
Recruitment for our Jabs Army has now closed. But you will be able to put your name down to be in our Reserve Army.
Reserves will be on a list to be called on in local areas when extra help is needed as the jabs programme gears up to top speed, vaccinating 500,000 people a day.
- Look out for full details next week of how to join the Jabs Army Reserve
How to sign up
VOLUNTEERS for the Jabs Army are being asked to first register online at nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk
You will then receive an email with log-in details to sign up online.
Finally, you will be asked to download the GoodSAM app on a smartphone which will match you to a role in your area.
Services will be opening in the coming days and weeks, with different areas up and running at different times, so you might not be required on site for some weeks. Not everyone who signs up will need to be called upon.
You need to commit to only two six-hour shifts a month at a vaccination service, and no prior experience or qualifications are required.
You will work as part of a team that will include NHS staff and volunteers. The Royal Voluntary Service will conduct appropriate background checks.
GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]