From marking the layouts using tape on a cold December morning to opening the doors and welcoming the first of hundreds of thousands of people a few days later to have their COVID-19 vaccinations, 2021 has been a momentous year.
Anita Sherwood, interim director of Covid operations, said: “The one-year anniversary of the first vaccination is an opportunity to look back at everything that has been achieved and to thank everyone who has given so much to help everyone who has come through our doors.
“This goes for our teams right across the BOB ICS area in our centres in Aylesbury, Oxford and Reading and those who have worked in mobile units and at pop-ups.
“There’s been so many different skills needed to get us to where we are now from training people, setting up booking systems and sourcing and setting all the equipment up. These are just a few examples.
“Just over a year ago we had never done anything like this, and certainly not on his scale. The professionalism and commitment of the people who have made this possible has been incredible.”
Responding to changing needs
Since 25 January 2021, when the very first members of NHS staff arrived at the newly set up facility to get vaccinated, the team has responded to the need to welcome new age groups and offer a much wider range of vaccinations.
The first member of NHS staff to be vaccinated at the Kassam was trainee clinical psychologist Madeleine Irish, who took her seat in Pod 1, rolled up her sleeve and received the first shot of the vaccine to be administered at the centre.
The 26-year-old, who works with older adults under the care of Oxford Health’s community mental health team and users of Oxfordshire’s talking therapies service TalkingSpace Plus, said at the time: “I feel so privileged to be the first to get the vaccine here today. It means I will soon be able to have more face-to-face time with patients and that will make a big difference to me and them.”
The first vaccinator
Giving the first vaccine was registered mental health nurse Mandy Taylor, who has been specially recruited via Oxford Health’s innovative agency workforce model to support the vaccination roll out. She still works at the Kassam and is now one of the site’s operations managers.
She said: “I feel really honoured to be the first person to give the Oxford jab at this Oxford centre to an Oxford Health worker. I’ve been a nurse for 39 years and it’s a moment I will never forget.
“My role here has been evolving all the time and it’s been a really good journey for me and my colleagues – many of the vaccinators and colleagues I met on day one have stayed.
“Before I arrived at the Kassam I was teaching through an agency and one day I was offered the chance to come to Oxford and I found it to be so good here that I stayed.”
The first members of the public get their jabs
People aged 75 and over were the first members of the public to get their jabs starting on 1 February 2021. After a quick sign-in process they were shown through to the main room which houses several vaccination “pods”. From there, once their turn came up, it was a simple case of sitting down in the allocated pod, rolling up their sleeves and relaxing while the trained vaccinators did their work.
Mandy explained: “The enthusiasm and camaraderie of everyone has been brilliant. And I will always remember how grateful members of the public were at the start as many of the first people coming through the doors had been unable to go out and meet people for such a long time.
“I am really pleased to still be involved with delivering vaccinations at the centre and to be able to use my experience as a nurse and Covid vaccinator to help guide the team as an operations manager.“
Now, one year on, more than 900,000 jabs have been given to people aged 12 and up and the total will continue to rise as more people seek to get protection from Covid-19.
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Published: 25 January 2022