LISTEN: Alan Rigby goes into what it’s like to volunteer, why it’s important and how people can get involved
An unlikely hero has emerged in Highland Perthshire who is helping people across the region get their vaccination in a safe, welcoming, and fun way – well as much fun as you can have receiving a jab!
Assistant Vaccination Programme Manager for Perth & Kinross, Alan Rigby was a logistics specialist, organising large vehicles collecting rubbish around Perth and Kinross as well as assisting in the organising of elections. Due to his experience, Alan was asked to help facilitate the process at the vaccination centres.
He jumped at the chance to help and asked, ‘What can I do?’.
“The vaccine centres are mass vaccination facilities in which we encourage people to go. You get a letter, according to what cohort you’re in, what age group you’re in and then it gets split up by postcode, so everybody arrives at once in the one area.
“It is the quickest most efficient way of doing it because GPs just haven’t got the time to do everybody.
“GPs originally did it for the most vulnerable people that were urgently required but the vaccination centre is a mass vaccination centre, and we go through over 1000 people.
Each day at the vaccination centre is ‘hectic’ says Alan and he credits his manager Sue Terras (lovingly nicknamed Little Miss COVID due to her incredible knowledge of running the facility) in supporting him and the group of kind-hearted volunteers that come along daily.
NHS Tayside officially runs the centre with Alan, Sue and their colleagues liaising with the health board along the way however it is those on the ground working through the daily queues to bring a safe resolution to the community and country as a whole.
This comes as recent data has shown that over 400,000 jabs have now been delivered by NHS Tayside and Vaccination Programme Director, Lynne Hamilton being internationally recognised for her work by the Engage Europe Finance Awards 2021.
Whilst NHS Tayside must be applauded for their COVID efforts, Alan said the primary reason for the high vaccine turnover is down to volunteers who have contributed ‘loads’.
“We had very little queues – that’s the whole idea. And to achieve small queues is an amount of good organisation and good martialling and, and that requires the volunteers to do that.
“We try and make a nice experience for the public when they come in.
“We want it through quickly, but we don’t want it to feel like a production line. We want the public to be able to come in and have a blether and everybody smiles at them when they come in. Yes, as much as you can getting a jag in your arm, but it doesn’t hurt – I’ve had mine, it doesn’t hurt!
“The volunteers speak to people, reassure them. They make sure that they wash their hands and anybody arriving for a vaccination gets a fresh mask.
“We basically speak to people and wait until a vaccinator is ready for them and then they escort them on to get the vaccine.
“We’re never really leaving people alone so they can’t all get worried about because we don’t want that. We want it to be pleasant and your job is to be smiling.
The past year has been tough on many families however the support continues to shine through in Highland Perthshire due to the proud community spirit and we are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Somebody once said to me that this is our World War 2 moment. And it’s just the fact that its restored faith in humanity as well.
“COVID has been hard for everybody and it’s our way at getting back at it and we’re actually going to beat it and it’s like…yes!
“Pitlochry has 40 people that volunteer in the vaccination centre, Blairgowrie has 84 and we’re trying to get more people all the time because we’re actually expanding the clinic from half eight in the morning until see sometimes now it’s half seven at night that the clinics are running because people are at work as you go down the generations people that are working, they don’t have time during the day. And we’re just we’re relying on volunteers to do it.
“And we’re only halfway through this. This is going until September. So, if you have any time volunteer anybody listening, volunteer.”
If you are able to donate your time and join the incredible team of volunteer’s opportunities exist not only at the vaccination centre but also in delivering food packages and other community assisting tasks.
To get more information or get involved, please visit www.pkc.gov.uk