Vaccination Volunteers Blog Channel & Folkestone Rotary Clubs

A Sweet Solution for Covid?

A recent news report told of how scientists have trained bees to sniff out Covid-19. Exactly how they got this idea is beyond me but some clever chap has managed to harness these poor little creatures and expose them to a variety of smells. When they sniff Covid-19 they are rewarded with a drop of sugar water. After a short while, in Pavlovian fashion, as soon as they smell Covid they stick out their tongue. You can see them here.

Now there is a number of ethical questions about this. Just think of where these scientists are getting the covid containing gunk from; deep in someone’s nose or around their rotting tonsils. No wonder these poor little bugs stick out their tongue in disgust.  

And should they be forcing bees to become hooked on sugar. I have never seen a bee with teeth, I guess this is because they eat so much honey, so we cannot be concerned about decay but how about diabetes and obesity not to mention a myriad of other diseases. Do we what a generation of sick bees making our honey?

According to excited scientists, this is the most rapid response test there is for covid and almost 100% reliable. There will probably be a world shortage of honey now as all the bees will be conscripted and deployed around the world. I wish I had the contract to make the harnesses. There really are some weird scientists about.

There are these other guys who are training bumblebees to play football. See this video

If the bee gets the ball into a hole it gets a reward; sugar, you guessed it.

If you are going outdoors from now on, which is all we can do at the moment, you better take some sugar with you because if a bee comes near you and sticks its tongue out, God alone knows what he will do if he/she is not rewarded with sugar. But mind you, the sting will be the least of your worries after the diagnosis.

I think there is a solution here. What if the bee could sting vaccine?

These clever scientists have got carried away with little pests. The chaps up at Oxford have become power crazed with their genetic wizardry. This time they have been interfering with mosquitoes. 750 million of the little blighters have had their DNA altered and sent off to Florida so that when they have their evil way with the local females, (no need for a video here!). The female progeny of these genetically interfered with males die young before they mature to spread disease. It is only the females which draw blood for their eggs and in doing so, spread disease.

So I see a plan forming here. Mosquitoes are clever at painlessly drawing blood so we get their anaesthetic. Honeybees can locate Covid. Bumblebees have good capacity. Given lots of sugar they can be fattened up and, most importantly, they have a whopping big injector. With a little clever genetic engineering from these three little bugs and training, we could train the bumblebee to sniff out covid and painlessly inject vaccine. Problem solved.

That is of course if these footballing bumblebees are more accurate than their counterparts in the premier league.

Joe Sullivan

Does The Vaccination Programme Need A New Message?

Just one death was recorded from Covid yesterday, one too many, but a most encouraging sign that the worst may be past. Far too many lives have been lost but the vaccination programme has now protected the most vulnerable and reduced the load on the NHS; its primary goal. Bur as half of the adult population still needs vaccination, does the vaccination programme needs a new and clearer focus to face the remaining challenges to its completion?

Vaccinating the young:

Different flu viruses have affected different age groups over the years. The flu of 1918 which claimed tens of millions of lives, disproportionally killed young people. In the US it killed more soldiers than those killed in the war which had just ended. A flu in 1968 also killed young people disproportionately. But there is research which shows an interrelationship between viruses to which we have gained immunity in early life and the effect in later life of a variant of the same virus, which may explain why a particular age group can be disproportionately affected. In other words, those not affected in one epidemic may succumb in the next because they do not have antibodies.

Today the young generation seems to have become complacent viewing Covid as a disease of the aged and are understandably anxious to resume social life believing that it may not have much impact on spread of the disease.

Exposure by vaccination to the Covid virus may give them protection to a future variant of Covid which from the experiences from 1889 and 1918 may have a serious impact on them.

The next challenge is to counter the antivax theories.

I had a conversation with an acquaintance the other day and was amazed when he told me that he had not been vaccinated and was reluctant to do so. He did not have any background scientific knowledge so although he could list many of the antivax theories he had no foundation from which to question or evaluate their authenticity.

Many of us are inclined to only seek and read material which reinforces our opinions and this seems to be particularly the case in social media where opinions which we explore continuously feed into our devices by default. The person to whom I was speaking had been hospitalised during the first lockdown because of a non-covid related respiratory crisis due to COPD. He seemed unaware of his vulnerability and the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness in patients like him.

Changing false opinion can be very difficult. This can be more likely during the pandemic where someone blames the government for decisions which have adversely affected their families, their income or employment. They will be less likely to trust the advice from ministers of the value of vaccination.

As examples; the recent ‘disruptor’ who threatened security at local vaccination sites and the protester outside Debenhams accusing those inside of murder, will be difficult to bring on board. But every avenue should be tried.

The third reason is potentially the most important; Long Covid

In 1889-90 a pandemic called the Russian flu which is now thought to have been a coronavirus rather than influenza, was followed by many resurgences of the virus over subsequent years. What is striking is that the disease caused lasting neurological disorders and nervous conditions of depression and fatigue. These conditions persisted through the resurgences and occurred again following the next pandemic of 1918; the Spanish Flu, which is said to have affected up to 500 million people worldwide and killed up to 50 million.

In the extreme, the residual mental and emotional effects were so profound that a famine resulted in Tanzania because farmers were unable to plant their crops due to fatigue but similar conditions were reported across the world. It is hard to compare 2021 with 1918 following the slaughter of the war and the subsequent grief of 50 million deaths from flu. The ‘melancholy’ was multifaceted, impairing the economic recovery. Every plague from earliest times has provoked social change, sometimes very profoundly. Historians will record how we respond this time.

But the lessons must be to protect as many as possible from long-covid and to vaccinate the young so that they have some immunity which may help them when this or a similar virus strikes again.

Vaccinating the older early group was an emotional time for the vaccinator and patient alike and the relief felt by the patient was tangible. How can we instil this urgency in the young not only because it is they who suffer worst from the immediate dreadful effects of Long-covid, a condition which may have a lasting impact.

Joe Sullivan

A little bit about us.

An army of volunteers has been helping the Rotary initiative to support the vaccination programme in Folkestone over the last three months. The NHS Trust has sent messages saying how valued this amazing response of support is. It demonstrates how when a group of people come together to give a little of their time it can grow into a great power for good.

This is the basis of Rotary. An organisation which although it has been around for over 100 years is not understood by many or is sadly talked about in a divisive way of the haves and have-nots. In fact the intention of Rotary is quite the opposite; an intention to bridge that gap.

It is a worldwide organisation which on the one hand  is driving the eradication of polio from the world alongside the Gates Foundation while supporting a local school’s hardship fund on the other. Rotary is a non-political group of business and professional people embracing all professions and trades. Its aims are to promote the highest ethical standards in business while showing that every professional’s and tradesperson’s skills offer opportunities of service to the community. There can be no better demonstration of how this can work than the fantastically diverse skills of the 530 volunteers coming together for the good of our community by supporting the vaccination programme.

Rotary locally through the two clubs in our town has demonstrated how having a network of likeminded people with diverse skills who meet mostly as friends can be ready to act immediately when there is a need.

Four of us, Bill Flavell and Derek Harris and me of the Channel Club, and Terry Cooke-Davies of the Folkestone Club volunteered to take on this project when asked to help. I have just realised as I write that we have never met together during this task; just one Zoom call at the beginning was all that was necessary for each to use their individual experience to enable the project to evolve.

It has been fantastically rewarding as all the vaccination volunteers will testify, to be part of the great success story and it has been equally rewarding to experience the network of friendships and cooperation which has grown amongst the army of volunteers and all of the NHS workforce.

We must be able to build on this spirit of cooperation for the good of the Town.

Many volunteers have offered to help with other Rotary projects. Strangely we need marshals for our charity sporting events. On Sunday July 4th is the Channel Cycling Challenge at Romney Marsh. This is a 70 or 50 or 30 mile cycling event which requires many marshals. If you would like a morning in the sun – I hope! – please email alan.myers@channelrotary.org.uk who is coordinating the marshals for the event.

Or if you would like to take part to help our work in the community have a look, click =  >> HERE

Later in the year on September 5th we will need help with the Channel Triathlon at the Harbour. Or you could take part! HAVE A LOOK HERE

Our charity golf day on May 14th is fully booked with 200 golfers. But there is always next year!

If you would like to know more about Rotary email; howard.cocker@channelrotary.org.uk

A difficult decision

Each week since the start of lockdown I have had a zoom call with family members. Represented in that call are seven countries stretching from Finland and Denmark, through Europe to the UAE and Hong Kong. Each has had its own interpretation of lockdown and its own philosophy on vaccination. It is difficult to understand why there is no consensus derived from combining the experience of what is most effective in every country, that is until one listens to the almost patriotic fervour with which each defends the approach of their own territory.

There is surely no more striking divergence of opinion in relation to Covid than the controversy in relation to the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Denmark will not permit it at all, Spain not for the over seventies, Germany not for the under sixties and of course the UK not for women under 30. There was never a more important time for a united approach.

Now we hear that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been withdrawn temporarily. How can anyone prove or disprove the cause of six cases of clotting or one death out of 6.8 million people or occurrence out of the 20 odd million in the UK and safely blame it on a vaccine?

On the one hand we have the independent regulator in most countries approving the vaccine while the media and in particular individuals on social media who seek to justify the opposite point of view.

After a professional life where I placed my faith in the UK’s regulator, even sometimes when a radical change of direction proposed was uncomfortable to accept, I still could not be deaf to the debate about the AZ vaccine. While one life lost in a million seems such a small risk, it could be a death in my family. That for me was always the basis of professional decision making. I asked myself “what would I do if this patient was my mother or my child”.

As a vaccinator, found myself made uncertain about the use of the Oxford vaccine. My personal dilemma was whether I could continue to inject it and remain part of the programme and how to evaluate the risks.

I know a young mother and know of the father of an unborn child who died of Covid. And I know those who have suffered Long Covid which left very fit young people seriously ill. Covid is not just a disease affecting older people.

The vaccination programme has saved thousands of lives and tens of thousands from serious and often life changing illness. This outweighs the unproven incidents of which it is blamed. The UK’s decision not to use the Astra Zeneca vaccine on young women is a wise precaution at present and has helped in my decision to carry on.

The fact that I am insured and that the NHS ultimately takes responsibility for my actions plays no part in my decision. I do it because I believe it to be the right thing to do.

Joe

Trevor Twohig

As I mentioned in a recent message, local Author Trevor Twohig offered some books as a token of gratitude to the volunteers. The introduction was made by Vicky Feaver who some of you will know. Below is a note from Vicky, words of thanks from Trevor and the names of the winners.

Vicky:

I’ve only know Trevor a few months & completely by accident too I guess! I happened to come across his first novel called Sunny Sands & when I realised it was based in our gorgeous town I posted about it on Facebook and it went mad! Everyone started buying it, reading it and commenting on it, it was crazy!

Then Trevor got in touch with me to thank me for mentioning his books and we’ve stayed in touch. So of course he’s also been on my volunteering journey with me which leads to why he wanted to just say thank you to you all for everything you do for others.

Trevor:

Some things in life supersede the pull of a hometown, the desire to succeed or the relentless pursuit to stay afloat in this topsy turvy world.

There were times over the past year, when I have lost hope, when the life raft had sprung a leak and it all seemed too much to take in, to process and to handle.

It is in these times that I believe we are gently guided towards the light, towards hope. We are tribal beings, drawn towards community, to serving others and to love.

This modern COVID crisis caused us to question all of this, our faith in what we know to be right.

The light comes from helping the homeless. It comes from litter picking on the beach with your kids. It comes from volunteering to administer a vaccine. To help our communities towards a brave new world where no one knows or understands what the future may look like. But the desire is there for good. The desire to save lives. The desire to love.

So, three books is not a sufficient gift for the volunteers who deserve so much more. But it’s something. Love perhaps. Thankyou to you all!

Trevor Twohig

So with the help from Joe, Trevor has picked 3 random numbers from the volunteering list & the winners are:

Lesley Anderson

Howard Cocker

Andy Quittenden

Congratulations! We’ll be in touch with you about how to collect your signed copy of Sunny Sands, Crimson Cross or 2 Wolves

You can find out more about Trevor & his other works at http://www.trevortwohig.com

Well done everybody, keep up the great work & big thanks to Trevor for the kind prizes.

Euphoria is replaced by anxiety

I was there on the opening day of the Civic Centre and again the first day of Debenhams just ten weeks ago. How life has changed in those very important weeks, yet is seems so long ago especially on such a hot spring day as I write.

In those dark days in January we were just heading into a very windy spell, followed by a wet spell and then an extremely cold period, at a time when the oldest and most frail in our town were coming for their vaccine.

I feared for the vulnerable patients to be out for the first time in a year, in the bitter cold and was amazed that the volunteers remained so cheerfully willing especially at the Civic Centre. Now we must remind everyone to use sunscreen.

Those early days were emotional times. People who has been isolating for a year were so pleased to be vaccinated. But we were all still very much living in fear of the virus and delighted to be witnessing the start of the recovery.

Last week when I was vaccinating there was a very different atmosphere in many ways. I checked myself many times fearing I have become a little complacent. I like most of us there have had my second dose of vaccine so it is right that we should have confidence in what we are doing but it is important to remember that no vaccine is 100% reliable – excepting today’s report from the US about Pfizer in the young – so there is still a risk for us all. In checking myself I was remembering that all of the large numbers of people passing through the building have not been vaccinated. Chances are that amongst the queues are some who are infected. We must still be on our guard.

I noticed also a change in the mood of those being vaccinated. Gone is the tearful euphoria at the sense of freedom which the vaccine immediately gave those early recipients. I recall how I felt immediately following my first jab so I asked my patients how they felt. The answers surprised me and my awareness was awakened in yet another way.

There is no doubt that the concerns raised about Astra Zeneca have damaged the reputation of the vaccine. More than one patient replied that they had doubts and delayed their injection while they did their research. Research for facts on social media on this subject is very difficult only serving to intensify fears. But gone now is the powerful feeling of which I wrote in an earlier post about the placebo effect of having the vaccine injected, to be replaced by resentment and lack of trust which may cause the nocebo effect of intensified side effects.

Are you excited to have the jab I cheerfully asked another lady but was surprised when she tearfully replied that she was very concerned. A few moments explaining how I felt after my jab and why, relieved her. She thanked me not for the vaccine but for those few moments.

Then there were the big muscular guys with arm muscles popping out for this painless jab. I haven’t spent all my life as a dentist not to know fear no matter how big the smile and that apparent nonchalance. Beads of sweat are a give-away. Few people look forward to the invasive procedure but right now the process of vaccinating has become more complicated.

There has been so much adverse publicity about vaccines; Astra Zeneca in particular, that anxiety is understandable even though over 35,000,000 injections have been given in the UK without evidence of the concerns being raised elsewhere. We all have to realise these real anxieties and spend a little time where necessary trying to ensure that patients are in as good a frame of mind as I was, and all the early patients were, to be injected back in the dark cold days of bleak winter when the future with vaccination looked so uncomplicated.

Planning for the mass centres was for speed and efficiency. Now it needs just a little more time.

Joe Sullivan

Share Your Memories of Folkestone for a Community Project

Do you have some special memories of Folkestone you’d like to share for a new community project?

Perhaps you used to visit the Rotunda regularly and met your partner there, or used to gaze in wonder at the rock being made in the Old High Street?Or maybe you know someone in your family, or a friend who likes to wax lyrical about their memories or has some funny anecdotes?

Volunteer Michele would love to hear your memories and share them as part of a project called Folkestone StoryMap: Your Stories which is being funded by the National Lottery Community Fund through the Local Connections Fund.

Michele, who has a community interest company called Hand of Doom Productions, said: “Everyone is aware that Folkestone has changed greatly over the last few years, with the loss of much-loved landmark attractions like the Rotunda (and of course, as we all know Debenhams and former Bobby’s), and there’s almost a sense of loss from people who remember the town as another place. We know that lots of people talk about their memories of Folkestone very fondly and we want to try and capture that for posterity.

“So far we’ve had stories about the lorry park, a secret den in the Warren, getting around the old Sunday pub hours by taking a ferry to Bolougne and back (thank you Neil!) and about the wonderful nightlife but we’d love to hear more memories about the Harbour, Sunny Sands, the Ferries and the town in general.”

You can record your stories using a smartphone, or via a Zoom call, and then send them in via the website. They will then be added to the Folkestone StoryMap audio trail in the Lower Leas Coastal Park which launched at the end of last year. The trail uses QR codes fixed to a site specific location and are accessed via smart phones to listen to the stories.

Michele’s looking for stories of up to two minutes but they can be longer if need be so don’t worry about being over or under. We’d also love a photo to go along with the memory. If you’re a little shy about being identified though you can be anonymous.

There’s help and advice available at folkestonestorymap.co.uk, or if you’d like more help to record your story, you can contact Michele at michele@handofdoom.online and she can help you. 

I look forward to hearing your wonderful memories!
Thank you.
Michele

For more details go to folkestonestorymap.co.uk for full details.

Channel Rotary 30, 50 or 70 Mile Bike Challenge

Sunday 4th July 2021

Full Details: http://bit.ly/ChannelChallengeCycleRide2021
Bookings: http://bit.ly/Channel70Booking

Online Entry Fees:
£21.60 per Adult Rider – (£25.00 on the day)
£11.40 per Child (under 16) – (£15.00 on the day)
£42.00 Family registration, 2 Adults + 2 Children under 16 – (£50.00 on the day)

In addition to the Registration Fee it would be great if every rider raises at least £25 in sponsorship.

The Leveller.

“The glories of our blood and state are shadows, not substantial things”

The first line of a poem I always recall written by James Shirley written in the first half of the seventeenth century when the Black death was raging in the UK. There was no vaccine in the seventeenth century so death was indeed the leveller. “Death lays its icy hand on kings”.

A strange way to start a report on the next phase of my journey, literal and metaphorical, to becoming a vaccinator. The physical journey in training and preparation took me to Whitfield for basic life support training, then to Maidstone for injection technique and onwards to East Malling for blood tests. A few more online modules and I was ready to go. It would have been easier I think to re-join the Dental Register from which I resigned just a year ago.

Finally my first day as a vaccinator arrived. Pleased to be part of this fantastic national effort I donned my scrubs, the uniform of the vaccinating team, with a little trepidation not having brandished a syringe for a while, and joined the briefing upstairs in Debenhams as part of an impressive gathering of some 50 colleagues, where I discovered that in its own way, the vaccine has been a great leveller.

But the training had further steps to go. A short period as an observer and then being observed finally enabled me to be signed off in competency for about thirty aspects of injecting the Pfizer vaccine. The same process followed for Astra Zeneca and will follow any time my role changes. There is no doubt that the process is thorough.

What is certain is that it also thoroughly explores ones determination to become a vaccinator. More than once I asked myself do I really want the hassle. The fragmented approval process was very frustrating. My colleagues on my first session included, an anaesthetist, a paediatrician, a GP, a midwife, a nurse, two other dentists and an orthodontist all of us retired. Three times in conversations I heard, without provocation, others echo my words of frustration, but all are there just to support the great national effort. We are all equal now.

“Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down
And in the duet be equal made”

What is fantastic to hear is the route of other colleagues to the vaccination force. A speech therapist, a health care assistant and someone who has just finished a health studies degree but had not found work, are indicative of how the training may open opportunities within the NHS for some who showed commitment and a work ethic; attributes of the vocation of nursing.

In my former national roles in my profession an issue which was highlighted was the difficulty women in particular found in returning to their work after years off for child rearing. Loss of self-confidence was a massive barrier. Research found that this was not just a problem for women. The fact that it was less common for men to have such periods away from work meant that it was not realised to be a problem. I discovered in conversation that training as a vaccinator and having to treat patients again has been a nice reintroduction for some, helping to regaining confidence.

But we are only part of the workforce. The volunteers form a similarly diverse group bringing skills and experience to their supportive role. The management of the flow of patients through the centre; assessing and observing them until they leave safely is as dependant on the volunteers as it is on the ‘uniformed’ workforce. They also understand the needs of the new vaccinator during induction, something for which I for one was very grateful. Everyone is very much an equal part of this wonderful team.

I have not forgotten the most important role of the pharmacists but they are hidden away, not to be distracted in their delicate task, not to be seen.

The vaccination programme has been amazing for the nation. It will no doubt have long-term benefits for recruitment in the NHS, it has been a time of discovery in the management of national projects and it has undoubtedly identified a great community spirit which we in Rotary hope we can build for the benefit of our community; from where further levelling will hopefully follow.

Now Shelly’s final words could be rewritten:

“Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust”

In the summer of 1665, when Shelly lived,15% of the population died.

The Bubonic plague of 1348-50 killed over 2,000,000 in the UK. 30-40% of the population.

Where would we be today without the vaccine?