On 15 February, the Government hit its target to offer everyone over the age of 70 a coronavirus vaccine, and many over 60s are receiving invitations for their jabs. Across the country, local Age UKs have been working to ensure older people in their communities are supported to receive their vaccinations.
Here's how Age UK Mid Mersey, Age UK Medway and Age UK Cornwall have been of service to older people in their respective areas.
“We never just drop someone off, we always stay with the person.”
At Age UK Mid Mersey, Bridgid Dineen, Head of Services for Quality and Development, is reflecting on the great work their staff and volunteers have put in to help with the vaccine effort so far.
“Our team have really gone out of their way, despite everything that’s going on and how that affects their lives outside of work. They have a really good connection with the older people we support.”
That connection has meant Age UK Mid Mersey is able to support older people from start to finish when getting their vaccine, even helping those who might not previously have considered asking for assistance. “We’ve all got pride, we don’t like to ask for help, and we try and manage,” says Bridgid. “I think maybe with older people they’ve become used to managing, so they don’t like to ask. But when we build up relationships, that’s when people are happy to take up the offer.”
I think maybe with older people they’ve become used to managing, so they don’t like to ask for help.
After the vaccine appointment is made, Age UK Mid Mersey arrange transport and for a dedicated member of staff or volunteer to attend with the older person, while following strict safety guidelines. “We’ll tell them who will be taking them to their appointment and what they look like, so they know exactly who they’re going to see on that day. We never just drop someone off, we always stay with them. Then we follow up a few days later to make sure everything’s ok.
“I’m really proud of the work Age UK Mid Mersey does. I’m proud of the staff for stepping up.”
“It’s a great relief to older people and to us.”
Age UK Medway Operations Director Heather Woolley filled us in on how they’ve been helping older people in their community. As well as providing a variety of support throughout the lockdown, including home activity packs, virtual day centres and even the delivery of two-course meals, they’ve been busy supporting older people with their vaccinations. “Some people haven’t been able to book their vaccine appointment online or have struggled to use the telephone to book, so we’ve booked the appointments for them,” Heather explains.
The team at Age UK Medway have also been putting on transport to get older people to their vaccination appointments. “Some people we’ve supported are just anxious because they haven’t been out in so long,” says Heather. “This way, they know there’ll be someone with them - it’s just the reassurance that someone will be with them to help them through it.”
It’s just the reassurance that someone will be with them to help them through it.
Heather feels the success of the vaccination programme so far has provided older people, and organisations working for them such as Age UK Medway, with a much-needed boost. “The pandemic’s had so many twists and turns, so many stops and starts, but the vaccine roll-out has been smooth and it’s gone really well. It’s a great relief to older people and to us.
“The challenge is having to bear in mind that the vaccination doesn’t mean it’s all gone away.”
“We’re using electric vehicles to get people to their appointments.”
Lee Davies, Development Lead for Sustainable Transport at Age UK Cornwall, shared their novel approach to driving people to and from their vaccine appointments - electric cars.
“They're fully accessible, so you can obviously take a person in a wheelchair, which is fantastic. We fit them all with screens for COVID-19 safety requirements. We've got 6 of them across the county – based in the heart of rural towns. One day we hope for a few more!”
Age UK Cornwall also has a team of over 60 volunteers, supported by dedicated staff, helping with the vaccine roll-out at Reeds Pharmacy, Truro. “It’s 7 days a week and our Volunteers have worked tremendously hard” says Lee. “In some cases, we are supporting individuals that can't get to their appointments, in other cases we are offering essential one-to-one support and linking people to our services - with the full PPE, of course!”
It’s great to see people’s confidence returning.
Resources are tight, but Lee remains positive. “There’s only so much you can do, and we've hit some amazing targets, but you want to do more - you always want to do more.
“That first jab has brought hope to people's lives. It is great to see people’s confidence returning. I hope we can keep on ramping up the vaccination delivery and get to a stage where everyone feels safer, more confident, and we’re able to get back to normality a little bit.”