Justin Tomlinson MP

Justin Tomlinson MP

MP For North Swindon

Swindon Advertiser Column - Blown Away By Steam Vaccination Centre

More than 13 million people have been given their first dose of a COVID vaccine, or nearly 1 in 4 adults, which is fantastic progress for the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.

In a matter of weeks, sports grounds, museums, places of worship and many others have been transformed into the 1500 vaccination centres which have been delivering vaccines across the country at a rate of 2.5 million a week!

Yesterday, I visited our wonderful Steam museum to speak to senior clinicians, visit the vaccination centre and say a big thank you to the wonderful NHS staff & volunteers.

I have heard medics describe the Swindon vaccination programme at Steam, led by the Wyvern Health Partnership & Brunel Health Group as the ‘crown jewel’ and ‘the best vaccination centre in the south west’. Delivering an incredible 6,500 vaccinations across four days this week.

And it’s easy to see how they vaccinate so many people so quickly. The system is very efficient – everything is laid out clearly with clear signage, everything is socially distanced as you would expect, and crucially the volunteers & staff are so brilliantly helpful.

I have spoken with a lot of residents who have been thoroughly impressed with the experience, and at the centre I managed to speak to a few who had just received their vaccine. It was actually quite moving to see the pure joy and relief that was felt – for most it felt like we were finally beginning to venture out of a very dark tunnel.

Health care workers have been at the centre of the battle against COVID and they continue to play a vital role, with many volunteering free time to assist the vaccination programme. I spoke to a nurse called Ali who told me how nice it was to be on the receiving end of people’s gratitude – there were plenty of biscuits & chocolates to go round!

And the centres wouldn’t be able to function without the wonderful volunteers who have stepped up to provide administrative & logistical support. They have already been dubbed the ‘Jab Army’ and many told me how rewarding the experience had been – one lady told me that a number of people had treated it as a day out, and an occasion to dress up for! For many, myself included, witnessing it all has certainly seemed like a moment in history.

Of course the whole operation has been an entire community effort. I know that local taxi drivers have played a crucial role in transporting elderly residents who may otherwise have found it difficult to get to Steam. It has been a tough time for them so their help now is extremely selfless & appreciated.

Overall the visit greatly lifted my spirits. It has been an incredibly tough year for so many, and being able to see the happiness felt by those have experienced isolation & loneliness as a result of this horrid virus, really brought everything home.

It also summarised something that we all know, but all need to remember at times when we feel particularly low – when times are tough, a community always rallies together to support each other. Regardless of age, gender, race or beliefs; everybody will do what they can to take care of others, and this is exactly what the wonderful vaccination centre at Steam demonstrated.

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