The emotional journey towards Sutton Coldfield's successful vaccine roll-out

“People have left the room, full of emotion, saying ‘thank you, I have got my life back’.”

Dr Rahul Dubb
Dr Rahul Dubb

With all the devastation caused by Covid-19 – the tragedy, grief, heartbreak, anxiety and fear – for Doctor Rahul Dubb, such words of optimism, from a recipient of the vaccine, provide some comfort.

They are also recognition that the incredible team effort in delivering the vaccine in Sutton Coldfield is making a difference.

It has been an emotional journey for the team but Dr Dubb, chairman of the Sutton Coldfield Group Practice, says it’s one which has given him immense pride.

“There have been some very hard times over the past year or so, both personally for our staff and sharing the difficulties our patients have been through,” he reflects.

“People have been severely affected by Covid and it’s been very emotional and heartbreaking. But, for the tragedy, to be able to conduct the vaccination programme and hear feedback from patients, to bring that smile back to them, has been special.

“To hear someone administered with the vaccine say ‘I might be able to see my relatives now’ or ‘I can have a hug’ –it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe but certainly one more of elation.”

From a practice point of view – initially in Falcon Lodge and, from February, at the Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, the team have administered 65,000 vaccinations and, of those, 25,000 residents have had their complete course.

That is probably one of the most successful of any GP organised programme in the region,” explains Dr Dubb. “And it’s down to a real team effort from the community.

“This is, quite honestly, the most amazing response our practice and the Sutton Coldfield community could have given to the most adverse challenge, certainly in my generation."

Members of the vaccination team inside the Town Hall
Volunteers outside the Town Hall

"It has been a monumental effort from everyone. It’s the people who have made this happen. Everyone has put their shoulder to the wheel and I couldn’t be more proud.

“It has been truly inspirational from Sutton Coldfield and, as a Suttonian, born and bred, I am immensely proud to be part of the practice leading the vaccination programme here.”

For Dr Dubb and his team, who head up the vaccination programme in the town, the list of people to thank is endless but he admits the volunteers who have supported the roll-out deserve huge credit.

“Within two days of putting an appeal out, we had more than 100 people sign up to volunteer. Now we have 300 registered through Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council,” he said.

“They have helped with our housebound and care home patients.

“And they have stood outside in rain and wintry conditions, on long shifts, before directing people safely into the town hall, making sure people adhere to their space and following regulations.

"They have dedicated 6,000 hours. That has been phenomenal. It’s been a long six months but everyone has put their heart and soul into it.”

Many others, he adds, have played their part.

“We couldn’t have done it alone,” he says. “It has been a collaboration.

“Andrew Mitchell has been hugely helpful and Olive O’Sullivan, the town council and Town Hall staff have been incredible.

“Falcon Lodge Medical Centre, Birmingham and Solihull CCG, University Hospital, Birmingham City Council – everyone has played their part.

“The Townhouse pub has provided free parking too for those being vaccinated.

“And, of course, a massive thank you to staff at Sutton Coldfield Group Practice who have worked tirelessly at the Town Hall and the practice, making sure the practice is running despite all the challenges over the past 15 months.

“We have seen recruited retired health care professionals, medical students and allied healthcare professionals to vaccinate and they have been very generous with their time. “

For Dr Dubb, there is now light at the end of the tunnel but he has urged people to remain cautious.

“As restrictions ease, we are more likely to come out of this if we maintain caution,” he said.

“The mantra of hands, face, space and fresh air needs to stay on our radar.

“And we need to take up the vaccine when invited. We need to make sure we complete the job. I think we all have one goal in mind – to get Sutton Coldfield back up and running."

Dr Rahul Dubb

“That common purpose has led to the results we have had up to now but we have still got to keep going.”

And important to that is urging residents in the 30-40 age group to take up the vaccine as soon as they are invited.

Dr Dubb revealed he had seen reluctance among the younger age groups in Sutton to receive the jab.

“I’d like to thank all of our residents that have come and made the vaccination programme one of the best in the city, both in uptake and numbers vaccinated,” he said.

“In the over-50s, we have had 90-95 per cent coverage in Sutton. That’s nine out of ten who are vaccinated over that age.

“So far, 80 per cent of 40-50-year-olds have taken up the vaccine,” he added.

“However, as we go into the under-40s group, we are now starting to see a little bit more reluctance to come forward for the vaccination. It has been more noticeable.

"There is less clear evidence for the benefits of having the Astra Zeneca vaccine versus the rare risk of blood clots, especially as you move into the under 30s.

“We now have a supply of Pfizer vaccine coming through to offer to the under-40s, so I would urge people, particularly in light of the Indian variant, which is of concern, to come forward and have the vaccine when invited.

“We know the vaccination programme works very well and that is the important message. Our flu programme is effective but the Covid vaccines are working at a much higher efficacy, at around 90 per cent when the two-dose vaccine course is completed.”

And Dr Dubb, a former pupil at Bishop Vesey, urged anyone who is hesitant with concerns about their medical health, to seek professional advice rather than taking sources of misinformation at face value.

“The vaccine programme is highly effective and provides our route back to normal life,” he added.

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