The head of the NHS in England is paying tribute to over 100,000 people who gave up around two million hours of their time to help ramp up the vaccination programme in 2021, as the NHS doubled down on boosting the nation.
Working alongside NHS staff, selfless volunteers helped to deliver record-beating numbers of jabs in December – with over nine million doses delivered since the Prime Minister announced the turbo-charged vaccination drive on 12 December, including over eight million booster and third doses.
Their efforts helped more than three quarters of eligible adults to get boosted by the end of December.
To help protect the nation from the threat of the Omicron variant, the NHS launched a recruitment drive for more vaccinators and volunteers to help accelerate the booster efforts – and thousands have already come forward.
Paid vaccination roles have seen 17,500 people register their interest so far.
An additional 48,000 people have registered as steward volunteers through the NHS Volunteer Responders programme in just over a month, with over 10,000 already deployed as part of the national mission to get the nation boosted.
The NHS has also been working through the Royal Voluntary Service and St John Ambulance, to bring on board tens of thousands of volunteer stewards and trained vaccinators. St John Ambulance has seen 17,000 people come forward to do shifts as volunteer vaccinators.
These nationally-recruited volunteers are on top of those recruited locally by vaccination services and their partners, such as councils and fire and rescue services, to help boost jabbing capacity.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive said: “Alongside NHS staff, our selfless volunteers have worked tirelessly to protect the nation – in football stadiums, shopping centres, Christmas markets and countless other vaccination sites up and down the country.
“I want to give my personal thanks to everyone who has given up their time to help us beat record after record – continuing to make the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme the biggest and most successful in health service history.
“I’m sure the nation will join me in paying tribute to these amazing volunteers, whose efforts will undoubtedly help to save many more lives”.
The booster programme is more important than ever, following recent data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showing two doses of a COVID vaccine are not enough to stop people becoming unwell from Omicron – however, a third jab prevents around 75% of people getting any COVID symptoms.
Jaz Kaur Bangerh, 51, from Leeds has been supporting the vaccination programme by promoting the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in ethnic minority communities – including translating key health messages about the vaccine into Punjabi.
She said: “The NHS has been there for me, for my family and for my friends so volunteering was a way for me to say ‘thank you’. When the pandemic started, I felt a sense of hopelessness and despair – but I wanted to be part of the solution.
“Volunteering for the vaccination programme, I have helped people to fill in forms, guided them to the right place and answered any questions – especially if they were a bit anxious in the early days, when there was a lot of information out there.
“If you want to have an absolutely brilliant time, please do volunteer – it’s really great fun. You get to meet people from all walks of life, while growing your own experience, learning new skills and feeling better about yourself. So I would really encourage people to volunteer”.
John Hardman, 38, has volunteered at vaccination sites in London including Wembley Stadium and the Science Museum. He said: “I absolutely love volunteering for the vaccination programme – from greeting and guiding people, helping the elderly and keeping people company while they queue.
“There are lots of opportunities to support locally, even if just for a few sessions. I can’t recommend it enough – I definitely get more out of it than I put in. I urge anyone who can to get involved”!
Penny Champion, 67, has been volunteering at her local vaccination centre in Lewisham, London. She said: “I’m really proud to be part of the vaccination programme. Every shift is different, and I’ve met some wonderful people and learned a lot about my own community. It would be great to have more friends and volunteers join us. You will enjoy it if you do!”
If you are interested in applying or if you want to volunteer, search ‘NHS vaccine team’ to find out how you can help.
People aged 18 to 29 can make an appointment at thousands of vaccination sites on the national booking service, three months after their second jab following updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
More than 1.5 million appointments are still up for grabs in the next week, with health chiefs urging people to get boosted now.
For photos of the volunteers quoted in this release please contact the NHS England and Improvement press office using the below details.