Volunteer vaccinators: who’s eligible, what roles are available and how to apply
The Scottish Government is calling on members of the public to volunteer for Scotland’s vaccination booster programme, as concerns mount over the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Initial research into the new variant, which was originally discovered in South Africa, has shown Omicron may actually be milder than the previously-dominant Delta variant.
However, scientists believe the Omicron variant is many times more transmissible than Delta, and will therefore be responsible for far more hospitalisations than Delta.
So while as a percentage the number of hospitalisations caused by Omicron may be smaller than Delta, the actual number of Omicron hospitalisations could far exceed those caused by Delta and could put immense pressure on the NHS.
What is the Scottish Government doing to combat Omicron?
Booster jags. Although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she would like to implement further lockdown measures, any furlough or business grant spending must come from UK Treasury borrowing, and Boris Johnson is still refusing to return England to lockdown measures. In the meantime, Scotland and Wales must make do with their respective vaccination programmes.
Following the most recent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) everyone aged 18 and over who is eligible will be offered a slot for the booster jab by the end of January.
Currently those aged 40-49 are invited to make an appointment through the online portal or the national helpline, from 12 weeks after their second dose. The national programme is also delivering second doses to 16 and 17 years olds.
What experience do I need to become a vaccinator?
There are a variety of vaccinator opportunities across Scotland that require different levels of experience and qualifications, depending on the role.
However, for some roles, no previous experience is required and full training will be provided.
The requirements for each vacancy are detailed within each job advert, however, the Covid 19 vaccine and booster programme is being led at a local level by NHS Boards.
Each board decides how to deliver the programme in their area, including the types of support they might need from volunteers, so therefore job descriptions will differ depending on which health board is advertising for volunteers.
Current vacancies are advertised here: https://www.careers.nhs.scot/covid-vaccinator-recruitment/vaccinator-jobs/
Will training be provided?
According to NHS Scotland, volunteers will be “fully supported, whether you're completely new to healthcare or require further training”.
NHS Education for Scotland has developed a range of educational resources and information to support vaccinators at all levels of experience and those supporting the programme.
Are government figures getting involved?
Apparently so! The First Minister has already pledged to take part in the volunteer programme, but it is not yet apparent whether Sturgeon will actually be vaccinating the general public, although the Scottish Government has been asked to clarify this.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers, including the First Minister, have volunteered to help the vaccination programme.
“There are a number of ways in which non-clinically trained people can do so – aside from actually administering vaccinations – which help speed up the flow of patients and enable clinically-trained staff to focus on getting vaccines into arms.”
Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch will also be volunteering with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Leitch said: “I am pleased to join the fantastic team at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and look forward to helping administer booster jabs to adults and second doses to 16 and 17 years olds as we continue to protect Scotland’s population as quickly as possible.
“To be a small part of this national mission is a real privilege. It also gives me the opportunity to thank the clinical teams and volunteers who have got us this far.
“This has been the biggest immunisation programme in the history of the NHS and the hard work and commitment shown by health boards and vaccination teams across Scotland means we have the highest vaccination rate for people aged 12 and over of all UK nations for first, second and boosters/third doses and the winter vaccination programme has already delivered more than 2 million booster and third doses to the most vulnerable groups, covering 45% of the adult population (aged 18+).
“However, we would warmly welcome any former NHS employees and of course, they will receive full training before giving any vaccines. I’ll be helping when I can alongside my main role.
“Even a shift a week will help, so if you’re a dentist, a nurse, an optometrist or a doctor and you can help us then please contact your local health board. Every vaccine dose given is another step out of the pandemic. If you don’t have a clinical background, it’s not a problem, you can still assist the programme in another capacity through the British Red Cross.
“We have accepted the JCVI’s updated recommendations and aim to offer the booster vaccine to everyone aged 18 or older who is eligible by the end of January, and we would love some more vaccinators to join our incredibly national programme to assist us through this particularly busy period.”
Isn’t the military providing assistance?
Yes, the number of military staff assisting with the autumn/winter vaccination programme has been increased to support the acceleration of the booster roll-out, however, volunteers are still needed.
An additional 100 military vaccinators are joining the existing 100 staff who are working to help with the roll-out.
There are also 15 nurses and six support staff currently assisting with the programme and this support will remain in place until 28 February. The new personnel will undergo final training before delivering vaccinations from next week. Discussions are taking place to ensure they are deployed where they are needed most and this will kept under continual review with staff reassigned when appropriate.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We are so grateful to everyone who has been involved in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Scotland, including the military, which has ensured more than 10.5 million doses - first, second, third and boosters - have already been delivered.
“We are now in the midst of an extremely busy period for the national autumn/winter vaccination programme with COVID-19 booster injections being offered to all those aged 18 and over.
“The emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is adding to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS which is why we have again requested military support to complement our existing resources and ensure we can get vaccinations into arms as quickly as possible.
“Demand for boosters may mean you may have to wait in a queue at drop-in centres but we urge everyone to be patient.
“At this time it is also particularly important that we continue to take all precautions to prevent transmission. So test regularly for the virus, limit socialising in the run up to Christmas, wear face marks where required and open windows to improve ventilation.”