What’s it really like at the York Covid vaccination centre? A GP has revealed all – in an uplifting insider’s account

Life saver: Dr Abbie Brooks with a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine at York's vaccination hub. Photograph: Dr Abbie Brooks
11 Jan 2021 @ 12.26 pm
| Health

A York GP has given an insider’s account of working at the York mass vaccination centre.

Dr Abbie Brooks, a GP partner at the Priory Medical Group, has been administering the vaccine at the centre at the former park and ride site at Askham Bar.

She has published a blog post detailing her experiences – and what patients can expect when they go.

And it is an uplifting read, with a message of hope at a bleak time.

Dr Brooks says the centre got off to a “rocky start because the initial plan locally was based upon running a drive through clinic like the successful flu jab hub”.

However, this didn’t work due to the need to observe patients for 15 minutes after their vaccination.

“It was frustrating for everyone at the beginning as we invited patients and then had to postpone due to delivery issues but it was the right thing to do, to take time to prepare for this huge undertaking.”

Now however, the hub is doing its job, vaccinating people aged 80 and over in phase one, which is proving “good for the soul”.

How the hub works

Dr Brooks administering a vaccine. Photograph: Dr Abbie Brooks

The hub is run by Nimbuscare, which work on behalf of the practices of York.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has to be kept in strict freezing conditions, and that is why a central hub was considered to be the best solution.

“We know it can be a challenge to travel to the central site, but due to the specific logistics required for these vaccines, the central hub is the most effective way of offering the vaccine to the most amount of patients,” says Dr Brooks.

The marquee with its ten vaccination pods. Photograph: Dr Abbie Brooks

There are ten vaccination pods in a marquee at Askham Bar. So what happens at the centre after you get an appointment?

  • patients arrive by car “and are advised to stay in their vehicle until they are escorted to the vaccination marquee where there is a small, socially distanced queue”
  • they give their details and then wait for one of the ten pods to become available
  • two members of staff are in each pod, one to take details and the other to administer the vaccine
  • patients answer a few questions – it is helpful to have your NHS number but not essential
  • the doctor will check you are happy to go ahead, and explain what happens after the vaccination (you also get a leaflet)
  • you get the injection, usually at the top of your arm
  • finally, you are passed a card with your details on and asked to wait in the observation area for 15 minutes.

Making a difference

One of the pods. Photograph: Dr Abbie Brooks

Dr Brooks writes about how hard it has been – but how rewarding.

“I have attended a few vaccination clinics now, and they have all been so good for the soul,” she says.

“I work as a GP in a large practice and these past 10 months have been the hardest and busiest I have ever known.

“Knowing that every vaccine I give could make a difference to that individual and family’s life is just the best feeling. The more vaccines we give, the closer we are to being able to see and hug our loved ones.”

Dr Theresa Rutter prepares another vaccine. Photograph: Dr Abbie Brooks

She says “there has been a phenomenal effort across York to get care home residents and staff vaccinated as the highest risk group”.

Dr Brooks says that the team are aware of ongoing challenges. “We find out at quite short notice (48-72 hours) when a batch of vaccines will be delivered and this means contacting patients at short notice.”

And the online booking form isn’t ideal for everyone.

But she writes: “We are also phoning patients in this group that have not yet been vaccinated and there is still a large number to protect. Please rest assured that no one will be forgotten.”