Life as booster jab volunteer – Harrods-sized queues and tears after Boris bombshell – Adam Perry

Adam Perry, 48, a procurement specialist who has been a vaccine volunteer since January, describes what it’s like being on the front line of the booster drive

“One of the biggest issues we’ve had over the last few days has been the sheer number of walk ins – particularly when they start impacting on waiting times for people who have booked”

When I turned up for my shift this week I couldn’t believe the crowds – it was big as the Harrods sale. People had been queuing since 6am, even though we didn’t even open until 7.30am.

The vaccine centres were given no early warning about Boris Johnson’s announcement and had not been able to prepare for the sheer numbers of people turning up that we’ve been seeing since Sunday.

It was like opening the floodgates and letting all the water come rushing through. When a service like this relies on volunteers – people who have jobs and who aren’t always available – it’s been a logistical nightmare to get people to help.

And when it comes to the queues, while most people are happy to accept there will be a wait, there are still people who think it’s worth their while to shout at the staff helping. That doesn’t help anyone, so to calm things down I tell them that I’m a volunteer and just trying to do my best.

People have been queuing for hours in the cold to get their booster shots in vaccination centres around the country



I’ve been helping out at my local vaccine centre, at a clinic in Crouch End, North London, since January. I’m normally there once a week with a clipboard at the door helping check people in, taking their temperature and directing them to where they need to go. It got me out of the house when everyone else was locked down, it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience and I’ve met people I would have never normally talked to in my daily life.

While the NHS may be providing the vaccine service, it relies on volunteers to run it smoothly, from data inputting to greeting, to even giving people vaccines.

One of the biggest issues we’ve had over the last few days has been the sheer number of walk ins – particularly when they start impacting on waiting times for people who have booked. At my instigation, at our clinic we now have two queues so that people who have booked times aren’t waiting as long.

While it can be stressful, a busy day at the vaccine clinic can be exciting. Everyone is working closely as a team, there’s an adrenaline rush, as well as a huge satisfaction in knowing that we are helping, that people will feel safer when they leave. But we also have to be extra careful not to make mistakes.

Adam has been volunteering at his local vaccine centre since January


Adam Perry)

One of the hardest things is keeping on top of who is allowed a vaccine and when. There are strict rules about how long it should be since their last vaccine, there are also age limits and no amount of pleading from them can make us give them the jab – we aren’t making the rules.

I’ve had people break down in tears because they can’t have their jab. They swear that they know more than us; that we are telling them a lie. That’s one of the hardest things – I really didn’t sign up to stand around in the freezing cold for hours at a time to be shouted at.

But usually people are calm and grateful – at the start of the vaccine programme they would even bring us chocolates and cakes. It’s immensely satisfying to be part of this huge push to keep everyone safe and I would recommend it to anyone who can help.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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