It’s fantastic to feel I’m contributing to the Covid-19 effort

I’m not still a hero just for staying home, mainlining biscuits and wondering if I’ll ever get to the front of the vaccine queue.


 

I’ve started volunteering at a mass vaccination centre in a sports stadium.

This is in Ireland, where vaccinations are being given to healthcare workers, the old, and the vulnerable first, then working on down.

I wear a hi-vis vest, I carry a radio, and I tell the public where to go, to sanitise their hands – “yes, I know it’s the third time since you arrived, but third time lucky!”

I encourage the nervous, check that people feel well, remind them to maintain a distance, and repeat endlessly “this is the last loo before vaccination!”

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I’m the world’s mother: “Do you need the toilet? Don’t forget to wash your hands!” Eight out of ten people go. It’s the nerves.

Each shift is six hours, standing throughout, feet throbbing – and yet I love it.

I’m relentlessly cheerful throughout simply because I can’t help myself.

It’s fantastic to feel I’m actively contributing to the Covid-19 effort, that I’m not still a hero just for staying home, mainlining biscuits and wondering if I’ll ever get to the front of the vaccine queue.

On my first shift everyone who came through was “special needs”.

Some clapped and laughed, some howled at the jab, some needed extra support, some broke my heart, all warmed my soul.

Here was life, with all its quirks and wonders. There was the young lad wearing two different coloured shoes – one red, one black, on purpose – and a Nirvana T-shirt.

There was the woman in the sequined hat with a smile like the sun.

There was the man who repeatedly hit himself in the forehead with his forearm, so much so that his face was calloused, yet he was loved.

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Now they would all be as safe as we could make them. Daily, I get to bear witness to this display of humanity, to a nation putting its weakest first.

Every day feels like a celebration. Being under fifty, non-essential, and rudely healthy means I’m pretty close to the back of the vaccine queue myself.

In the months ahead, I imagine sitting home alone waiting to be called while everyone else is going to gigs, orgies and mud-wrestling with their vaccine passport in hand.

But I’ll remember too how we finally prioritised those who most needed help before all others. And I’ll hope we don’t forget again.

Jennie Ridyard.

Jennie Ridyard.

By Jennie Ridyard

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