Vaccination Volunteers Blog Channel & Folkestone Rotary Clubs

Life gets back to normal

What a fabulous feeling early on Tuesday morning. A beautiful spring morning. All the schools are back so there were young people going in all directions, not scurrying, just a gentle pace of contentment. Parents with the primary school children chattering and excited; both the parents and the children! There was even a mini rush hour of the type I used to hate a year ago. The lockdown has changed me!

Life is returning to normal with small steps; lots of them, all going in the right direction. The birds were chirping, nest hunting I guessed. Suddenly there was an accompanying sound of joy as a couple of girls met, probably for the first time in months. It certainly sounded like it.

I passed on my journey through the train station for a short cut. There were little gatherings of young people there too but now these gatherings were not clandestine, they were actually waiting for a train. The trains have been waiting for them for a year.

Life has been hard for the young. I often thought during the lockdown, from a selfish point of view, that it is not too bad. People have lived through far worse times. On my evening runs as I come up Remembrance hill, I have thought of how many young men marched down there to their death leaving behind families in stress and hardship. Many who made that march were scarcely older than the young men I observed heading to school.

But even in the worst atrocities of war that we see all too often on television, children run and play in the rubble. Undoubtedly there is tremendous shock, stress and hardship for their families but the children find some release.

Young children need company. Parents celebrate this while on holiday. Even while in some foreign country kids seek out friends, by the pool for example. Language is not a barrier. Somehow they can communicate and have fun. During lockdown, even in the happiest of families, children have been deprived of that outlet.

There has been much spoken of a lost generation. I don’t agree. Humans are resilient. The creation of the vaccine is a stark example of this. Surely solving the problem of lost education is not beyond the wit of intelligent people.

But hearing the joy of the young people this morning made me realise something else very important that has been lost. We are only sixteen once. What a sad lost experience. Sixteen comes with its new experiences, its stresses, anxieties and tensions of emotional learning. Can that year be relived? I hope so.

Not all tension or anxiety is bad. Not all stress is bad. I fear the our media have done a massive disservice by confusing the normal stresses of life, even if they have been more intense, with mental illness. One hopes that a return for us all to social contact will solve most of the emotional problems.

Teenage stress is about learning about the world. Stress is essential for growth. Athletes stress their bodies so that they can grow in strength and power and self-motivation but for stress to beneficial requires us to be in control. That is what we all, especially the young have been

missing. Now we are getting control back and hopefully we will be stronger for the experience.

Yesterday morning, for someone who will certainly never be sixteen again, it felt fantastic to see life creep back to normal in such a positive way. It felt like it may be irreversible this time.

Being sixteen is not the only valuable year. Years in the final part of life are equally valuable. Those of us lucky enough to be involved in the vaccination programme have been privileged to see the freedom and control which the vaccine has given to everyone.

Joe Sullivan


I am sure I was not the only person to have been annoyed by the questioning style of the Sky journalist during Matt Hancock’s press briefing last evening. The Department of Health was in self-congratulatory mood having traced the final positive Brazilian variant case. The questioner was irritated by the celebratory mood.

Tracking one person in sixty five million; someone who had returned a test without providing contact details was a bit of a challenge from which a lot will have been learnt. But the chap from Sky was not a bit impressed. Am I correct in recalling that it is his colleagues who are off air for breaching the Covid guidelines at a birthday party? There are many out there who expect standards in life from others that they could never achieve in their own lives.

I feel compelled to watch these briefings but hate them in equal measure. One needs the mute button in hand as certain journalists names are called. Neither the Prime Minister nor the majority of his cabinet are the best communicators but one has to admire their ability not to retaliate to some of the journalistic provocation seeking to turn any success into a disaster. When times are hard and the challenges are great most humans need encouragement. One wonders how much time in a busy day is spent preparing for these confrontations. I would have left the briefings to the scientists

These briefings remind me of the various committees and boards I have sat on. There has regularly been someone who spends the whole meeting rehearsing a question in their mind. This is to be the moment they can demonstrate their incisive intellect but they have been so distracted in their mental rehearsal that they have not heard the previous speaker make the same point.

One minister with better presentation skills, the Chancellor, appears to have shot himself in the foot this week on the subject of nurses’ pay. This is not an issue which is normally a budget announcement but of course the allocation for such a massive budgetary item would have to be in the small print.

NHS pay is decided by Independent Pay Review Bodies which report later in the year. For many years I compiled and presented evidence to the Review Body in my own profession. We always doubted its independence. The prospect of an OBE for the members took care of that. So the hours of work, surveying and collecting data always felt to be a waste of time but had to be done. The Government’s counter evidence always recommended a small increase or none at all. In times of inflation the public sector had to set an example of restraint, in times of recession there was no money so years passed during which pay slipped behind the private sector.

The budgeted 1% is no surprise. This year however it is pretty certain that the recommendations of the Review Body will be for a much higher increase, especially for those ICU staff whose experience has been unimaginable. That will be hard for the DoH to refuse.

You may have noticed a change at the top of the page and website. We have added a “donate” button. This is not aimed at you. But there are many who have been very appreciative of the work you have done and may wish to support our work in the community. Now they may be pointed to

Which Vaccine Would You Like Sir?

Never before have I so willingly sought a vaccination. Throughout my life I was either taken as a baby unsuspectingly by my mother or dragged there a little later in life with the promise of something afterwards.

Sometimes, as I am a member of a large family of children, I recall us all being lined up in the dining room while the doctor ran along the line with his syringe. He possibly dunked it in hot water as he went but I wasn’t watching. Not being the oldest made the wait and the experience even more painful.

In later life vaccination continued to be a punishment; for example an additional hardship and humiliation after sticking a garden fork in ones foot. Tetanus jab in the arm and penicillin in the backside. It never crossed my mind to ask for the sommelier with the menu and the last thing I wanted was to see it decanted or have a taster dose. Nor I did not need posh syringes to impress the people at the other tables.

I have not changed as I got older. I have resisted flu as an affront to my masculinity, my fitness, my good health and because if its ageist connotations. That was until this year when my wife dragged me to the surgery with the promise of something afterwards and subjected me not just to flu but pneumonia as well. A deep affront. There was no feel-good factor and I can’t say about the reward.

I have been forced to have others as well, like those before they would let me get on the plane for a holiday. But I have never felt the need of these affronts to my liberty. My consent has been forced under pain of some deprivation. I never believed I would get tetanus, or yellow fever nor have I ever seen anyone with it or green monkey disease for that matter.

But now I really wanted this Covid stuff, couldn’t wait to get there and what a brilliant feeling it is to have had it. But what a choice, what a decision.

 “The damage done by former friends, apparently for political purposes, is not only to sow doubt in Europe but around the rest of the world.”

Who would have thought that the outcome of the pandemic would be a changing of the world order by countries being bribed to get a vaccine. China is offering two on a diplomatic world tour. Mind you it could be a good vintage having been laid down for years before the pandemic!!

Russia has others which Germany appears to be promoting both by offering to manufacture and by thrashing the reputation of the English one with more than a little help from France. So serious is this damage that the injection of the oxford is actually making Germans feel ill. The nocebo effect.

But, sorry, I am not having something called sputnik in my arm. And what would the neighbours say? I am torn between two. The microbiological Lego of Pfizer suits my modernist tastes but I think the intellectual association of the Oxford will win the day.

The UK is second to Israel for percentage of the population vaccinated with an approved vaccine and we know from this massive confirmation that the Oxford version is very effective and safe.

The damage done to its reputation by former friends without scientific justification, apparently for political purposes is inexcusable. This has not only sown doubt in Europe but around the rest of the world to all the poorer countries which desperately need vaccination and who may now fear that they are being offered an inferior product even though it has been offered to them on an not for profit basis by a well-intentioned manufacturer.

Vaccinating and Saving Lives

I am a retired dental surgeon who withdrew from the Dental register for 2020 just before the pandemic. So when the vaccination programme was being planned for Folkestone I put my name forward for both centres to help with the vaccinations. The mass vaccination centre at the old Debenhams is run directly by the NHS – I cannot get my head around FOLCA The store has been bought by the District Council; marketing doesn’t seem to be strong point! – The Civic Centre is ‘private enterprise’ run by a group of doctors’ surgeries.

The first reply I received was the Civic Centre in the form of a long list of many hours of training requirement which I dutifully completed and produced 34 certificates to prove that I had taken the tests. I attended the induction day but fell at the last hurdle because I was not a registered dentist even though I had said so on my application. Sadly their governance did not allow me to vaccinate. So be it.

There have been many comments as to the appropriateness of some of the training requirements for vaccinators. As a dental surgeon, as a parent or grandparent one is always alert for signs of or the potential for abuse especially in relation to children. It is no harm to have a reminder that not everyone shares the same moral standards. The Safeguarding training was a useful refreshment.

Whether or not training in radicalisation is necessary for vaccinators is questionable also but I found it very interesting and informative. It is a subject I have not had to consider much. The time covering this subject had not been wasted.

One area from which we could all benefit would be to have easy access to a defibrillator.

For someone whose every day revolved around patients’ consent for treatment, training in this area and in the Mental Health Act was still revealing. Even after a professional and business life which involved a lot of time caring for the elderly and all the attendant issues, one cannot be reminded enough of the challenges of gaining consent when mental capacity is reduced. So once again the training was not wasted.

In the meantime the NHS contacted me with training requirements. I resubmitted my certificates. A few more hours of training and a few more tests were required and then ‘Classroom training’ for resuscitation and finally Injection Technique. After thirty six years of dentistry? You might ask. Luckily I had never been so off target to have injected someone in the arm so little bit of training did not go amiss.

We all hope never to be involved in actual resuscitation of a collapsed individual so refresher training is always essential. I always marvel at the knowledge of those who work on the front line in this area and feel inadequate when I attend this annual training. The knowledge of how to resuscitate the collapsed patient is essential and should be for the entire population. Some countries now require this as part of training for a driving licence.

Part of this knowledge is in the use of defibrillators. Many years ago in Channel Rotary we started a project to have defibrillators available in the community and to train as many local people as possible in their use. These machines are fully automated and guide the user all the way. Their use is essential if many collapsed patients are to have any chance of recovery.

Channel Rotary’s project was before its time but there now are programmes around the country where neighbours join together to purchase a defibrillator along with a coded safe for outdoor storage. Then when everyone has had training in resuscitation and access to the equipment which is available to all at all times, lives will be saved.

Perhaps having sown the seed here this is something we could build on?

Training in life saving techniques is not just about the heart, it involves the airway as well. How would you treat a choking relative? The training is invaluable.

A further area of increasing concern these days is allergies. There have been very few recorded serious reactions to any of the vaccines being used in the UK after seventeen million injections but all involved must be prepared. Training in the treatment of anaphylaxis is essential

The final part of preparation for a vaccinator is self-protection so a screening of other vaccinations is required. What might happen if a vaccinator sticks a used needle in themselves? One cannot be vaccinated against all possible infection but a lot of protection is available and essential, including Covid itself.

So now I am ready to vaccinate. The training along the way has been very worthwhile and much of it could be communicated widely. One area from which we could all benefit would be to have easy access to a defibrillator. Perhaps having sown the seed here this is something we could build on together?

If you have a desire to help in some way in the community, we have the experience, expertise and contacts to help. Contact us to explore your ideas =>

Joe Sullivan.

If You Can be Anything! Be Kind

Bala Rao of Vinodhon Tandoori in Hythe with Elizabeth Gibson, Marshals’ Director

I had just read an email of thanks to everyone from a lady for the “awesome experience” and kindness at Debenhams this morning when she had her vaccination when my WhatsApp pinged. A message from Jill Stewart, one of our volunteers, arrived, tells of a surprise lunch for everyone at the Debenhams centre.

I didn’t get an invitation! But I am told it was delicious. Bala Rao very generously cooked forty lunches, chicken and vegetarian, for all the staff and volunteers. It is not the first time Mr Rao has made these very thoughtful gestures to Health Service workers in the District.

Life has been difficult for restaurateurs along with so many others over the last year yet it has not stopped acts of kindness like this. It is just part of the great spirit that is to be found in the vaccination centres. We are delighted to be part of it.

We simply open the door to geniuses and experts. The real heroes.

When I attended the first induction day at Debenhams I was amazed by the army of staff all in uniform who were preparing for their first day working in the mass vaccination centre. This was truly on a much larger scale than the Civic Centre which was already providing a highly valued service.

I attended another induction day for vaccinators last Friday and once again was amazed at the number of new recruits. Anyone who was marshalling on that day will have witnessed a transformation of the upper floor. Desks had been installed for administrators and ICT support staff who were helping to process and inform the new recruits.

This is just a snapshot of the behind the scenes work which has enabled the first fifteen million jabs to be delivered as promised. What we seen in Debenhams is just a little part of the whole programme which is now planning for even greater capacity. Across the country similar induction and training events were taking place.

It is scarcely a year since the first death from Covid-19. Who could have envisaged then that one year later the entire population would be cautiously emerging from lockdown to be vaccinated against a virus which we had scarcely heard of. From identifying the virus to creating a vaccine, manufacturing it to scale and planning how it would be possible to have mass vaccination of the entire population of the UK; let alone of the world was an unbelievable task.

But the plan has worked and there is not one of us who is not humbled to be part of it. We have felt how much it means to be a volunteer; to be a useful part of our community again and we see what it means to all who are vaccinated.

It felt so unfair to be recognised in the way we were on Saturday on the radio. One feels like an imposter to be regarded as a hero just because we are privileged to stand at the front door and guide people to have the life-saving treatment designed and planned every step of the way by geniuses and experts who are the real heroes. We in Rotary are humbled by the opportunity to enable so many to be part of this historic national achievement.

On behalf of Derek Harris, Bill Flavell and Terry Cooke-Davies and myself, the organising team, thank you. We represent the two Folkestone Rotary clubs. Keep up the good work. You will be needed for a long time yet. We have been tested in our little contribution by extremes of weather but spring is coming with far greater promise than any spring in our lifetime.

Hero Of The Week by BBC Radio Kent

We are pleased to let you know that the two Folkestone Rotary Clubs have been nominated as Hero Of The Week by BBC Radio Kent.

This is for our support to the two Folkestone Vaccination Centres with Joe Sullivan, Derek Harris and Bill Flavell of Channel Rotary and Terry-Cook Davies of Folkestone Rotary to the fore, supported by a great team of Rotarians and local volunteer marshals.

Joe, will be interviewed on tomorrow’s Pat Marsh Show at 8.50am. Please listen in if you can.

I’m a celebrity get me in here

I saw in the papers that some ‘celebrity’ bloke from the TV has been volunteering at a vaccination centre. What a saint! I rushed down to the Civic Centre in case I was missing something. Alas there was no camera crew or wall of paparazzi by the gate so I guessed that there was nobody of importance there.

But there might have been. I went to have a closer look. In the icy wind of Tuesday all the volunteers had barely one eye exposed which they alternated to prevent it becoming colder than the Pfizer vaccine.

I peered into the eye and asked ‘are you a celebrity’. My reception was rather chilly to say the least with language which even muffled by thick layers of wool was still intelligible and heated the social distance.

I slid from one volunteer to the next but was staggered by the reception. I quickly left feeling not wanted, no celebs for me here as far as I could ascertain so I beat a retreat. Don’t want to be hanging around here in the icy wind and snow for three hours with these ordinary marshals, so off to Debenhams for me.

Alas no camera crew here either. Once again peering our from their mountains of wool, one-eyed ordinary people; how disappointing. Do we need a better class of marshal I ask myself. How do we expect the public to be encouraged to have their vaccine.

Inside was a bit warmer. No moving mountains of wool but still I couldn’t identify anyone because they were all hiding behind their facemasks. Sorry volunteers, but you all look the same to me. There must be some very eagle eyed journalists out there to be able to spot the celebrities turning up. I am worried about the competition though. All our clients could be attracted to a far better class of centre.

There must be so many celebs who are deprived of attention right now to recruit a whole centre from. A few TV doctors to do the jabs, cops questioning for consent, nurses from Holby and some proper big name celebs to marshal. We could have the odd TV pathologist hovering over the vaccinators just for fun! Matt Hancock would be delighted. The national vaccination figures would shoot up.

The problem is how to get the camera crews to come. Do you think some celeb might leak their altruism to the press. God forbid. Having to wear a facemask for these people must be like lockdown for the rest of us.

What a shame that the very unique spirit of a vaccination centre made of the generosity of spirit of volunteers and the relief felt by those being vaccinated is now to be destroyed by lonely celebrities seeking to feed their starved egos.