Three Gonville & Caius College students have been combining their first year at the University of Cambridge by supporting the NHS Covid-19 vaccination rollout as vaccination centre volunteers.
Aroun Kalyana (Medicine 2020) has been administering the vaccine in Birmingham, and Natalia Emsley (Natural Sciences (Biological) 2020) and Georgina Acott (Medicine 2020) have been volunteering in rural Lancashire and rural Kent, respectively. All three encourage their peers to get the vaccine, now it is available to all those aged over 18 in the United Kingdom.
“I feel like our year’s been affected the most by the pandemic, which is why I wanted to volunteer to support with the vaccine,” says Aroun, referring to the A-Level disruption of 2020, as well as the national lockdowns which affected his final year of school and first year of university.
“I just really wanted to help out in this whole effort against Covid-19, and also because there wasn’t much else to do other than study.
“I chose to do medicine to help others, so administering vaccinations did help with that. I was able to chat to patients of all backgrounds, different demographics and ethnicities, and it was interesting to see how different people reacted to the vaccine, not medically, but mentally. It was nice to see that the uptake was still quite strong despite evidence of small side effects.
“It was a good way to be a healthcare worker in the front line in a practical sense. I thought it would be good experience and I did really enjoy it.”
For Natalia, working as a marshal at vaccination centres in Preston was an important way to feel part of a community, something she missed when she remained at her rural Lancashire home during the national lockdown in early 2021.
She says: “During lockdown I felt so disconnected and isolated. As cases started to rise again, I decided that I wanted to do something, both to get out and get back in touch with the world, but also to help.
“I am so lucky to have gained such invaluable experience and being able to put myself out there to support others was very rewarding. I really loved being able to truly embrace the sense of community, which has been so incredibly vital to many this past year, and I look forward to continuing volunteering over the summer.”
Georgina worked in a pharmacy when her school was closed in March 2020 and returned to help with the administration of the vaccine rollout – checking people in, filling in forms, and managing the process to ensure efficiency.
“I am fortunate to be young and healthy, therefore of low risk, so me helping out is much safer than it would be for others,” Georgina says.
“Also, as a med student I have a great interest in seeing as many people vaccinated as possible as I imagine the lasting impact of this pandemic on both people's physical and mental health are going to define mine and my peers' careers as medics.”
All three students wish to emphasise that vaccination is the pathway to protection and the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions.
Aroun adds: “If everyone gets the vaccine it means we’ll reach herd immunity quicker and we’ll get back to normal as soon as we can.
“It’s only because of the high uptake in vaccines that, although cases are rising, hospitalisations are staying quite steady. We just need to continue getting lots of people vaccinated, especially younger people because that’s where we’re seeing cases.”
Natalia says: “I would say to anybody contemplating whether or not to take the vaccine to do it, not just for yourself but for everyone around you.”
Georgina adds: “Get it, if not for yourself, then for all the other people you will be protecting.”
Caius Porters and staff have also supported the vaccination rollout. Read more: https://www.cai.cam.ac.uk/news/vaccine-volunteers