Tens of thousands of vaccine volunteers have been praised for their “amazing” work in giving up around two million hours of their time to help with the jabs rollout throughout 2021.
A woman who translated crucial health messages into Punjabi to reach more communities, and a man who was stationed at vaccine sites including Wembley Stadium and the London Science Museum are among more than 100,000 people who donated their time in the past year.
NHS England said volunteers who worked alongside healthcare staff had helped especially in facilitating the ramped-up rollout of jabs and boosters in December.
Paid vaccination roles have seen 17,500 people register their interest so far as the health service launched a recruitment drive in the face of the spread of the Omicron variant, NHS England said.
A further 48,000 people have registered as steward volunteers through the NHS Volunteer Responders programme in just over a month – of which more than 10,000 have already deployed.
Working alongside the NHS, St John Ambulance has seen 17,000 people come forward to do shifts as volunteer vaccinators.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the efforts of volunteers would “undoubtedly help to save many more lives”.
She said: “Alongside NHS staff, our selfless volunteers have worked tirelessly to protect the nation – in football stadiums, shopping centres, Christmas markets and countless other vaccination sites up and down the country.
“I want to give my personal thanks to everyone who has given up their time to help us beat record after record – continuing to make the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme the biggest and most successful in health service history.
“I’m sure the nation will join me in paying tribute to these amazing volunteers, whose efforts will undoubtedly help to save many more lives.”
Jaz Kaur Bangerh, from Leeds, has been promoting messages around the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in ethnic minority communities – including translating information into Punjabi.
The 51-year-old said: “Volunteering for the vaccination programme, I have helped people to fill in forms, guided them to the right place and answered any questions – especially if they were a bit anxious in the early days, when there was a lot of information out there.
“If you want to have an absolutely brilliant time, please do volunteer – it’s really great fun. You get to meet people from all walks of life, while growing your own experience, learning new skills and feeling better about yourself.”
John Hardman, who has volunteered at jab sites in the capital including Wembley Stadium and the Science Museum, said he “can’t recommend it (volunteering) enough”.
The 38-year-old said: “I absolutely love volunteering for the vaccination programme – from greeting and guiding people, helping the elderly and keeping people company while they queue.
“There are lots of opportunities to support locally, even if just for a few sessions.”
Meanwhile, 67-year-old Penny Champion said she is “proud” of her role at her local vaccination centre in Lewisham, south-east London.
She said: “Every shift is different, and I’ve met some wonderful people and learned a lot about my own community. It would be great to have more friends and volunteers join us. You will enjoy it if you do.”
NHE England said people interested in getting involved can search NHS vaccine team online.