The 'magic' inside Telford International Centre's new mass Covid-19 vaccination centre

The "magic" of coronavirus vaccinations is being delivered to hundreds more people in Shropshire, now that the Telford International Centre has been converted into a mass hub.

Telford International Centre has opened as a Covid-19 vaccination site
Telford International Centre has opened as a Covid-19 vaccination site

Gradually, a sense of relief is spreading with those who have been the most crucial and the most careful for the best part of a year, as health staff are given their vaccinations in the county's biggest hub yet – though there is still a long way to go in the fight against the virus.

Health bosses were given the green light for the Telford International Centre to become the borough's flagship vaccination centre three weeks ago, and they have been working with partners at the centre and at Telford & Wrekin Council to kit it out.

It was a mammoth effort from all parties and council staff have been working shoulder-to-shoulder (metaphorically) with seasoned health experts and ordinary people who have volunteered their time.

The system requires a lot of teamwork

The centre's car parks have been divided up into sections based on appointment times, to minimise crowding and queueing.

Once inside, those who have been invited for vaccinations join the line which filters through the conference and events venue's main foyer.

In happier times they would be queuing in the same places to see celebrities or hear famous speakers, but the only room open for visitors now is the new vaccination clinic.

Those being vaccinated yesterday ranged from health professionals in their teens, including Carrie-Ann Mortiboys, a 19-year-old healthcare assistant at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford; to people like Paul Watling, a 65-year-old domiciliary care manager at Direct Health.

They all patiently waited to be called to one of the 12 vaccination booths (it is hoped that the capacity will soon be trebled to 36 booths by using two more rooms), where they were seen by two friendly faces.

The system means that experienced nurses – some of them having come out of retirement specifically for the vaccine effort – are paired with helpers from all walks of life who are trained to assist them.

For example, former health visitor Helen Holdroyd had just been looking forward to a hard-earned retirement pre-Covid – but yesterday she was back on the front line injecting hopeful patients, with assistance from Natalie Wyatt, a photographer by trade.

Nurse Helen Holdroyd came out of retirement to help vaccinate people

Helen asks the patient about their history with vaccinations and any potential allergies, while Natalie, who is furloughed from her job as a school photographer and has signed up to help, cross-references the patient's records with their answers to make sure everything is correct.

Each team is paired together for the duration of their shifts and a hearty camaraderie quickly forms amidst the hustle and bustle.

Natalie Wyatt is a photographer by trade but while on furlough she has signed up to assist medical staff

And the pace is frantic, with dozens of people getting their shots every few minutes and the socially distanced queue continually moving up.

Once the patient has their first shot, they are invited to book in a second appointment to complete the vaccination process.

Each pair of staff will vaccinate a patient every few minutes, but the process can be particularly affecting for some, as Helen Holdroyd said.

"We've had somebody who was so, so nervous about it, extremely vulnerable.

"Coming here, she just felt completely overwhelmed.

"Now she's been here, she's happy and she feels magic. She can start to have that sense of normality, she can see there's light at the end of the tunnel."

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