"Friendly, helpful and kind": the British Red Cross volunteers on hand to help at Covid-19 vaccine centres
From reassuring nervous patients to helping arrange their transport home, our volunteers have been supporting in 30 centres across the country
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the British Red Cross has been on the ground across the UK, supporting people in times of personal crisis.
Throughout 2020 and the start of 2021, the Red Cross has reached communities with food, medicine, cash, and emotional support.
Now, as the vaccine roll-out continues across the country, there is hope on the horizon.
As the NHS works to vaccinate millions of people, British Red Cross volunteers will be involved in supporting the ongoing effort.
Currently, we have volunteers helping in around 30 locations in England and Wales, and volunteers will also be supporting at mass Covid-19 vaccination centres, alongside other voluntary agencies.
In Newham, London, volunteers have been supporting NHS staff by welcoming patients on their arrival at surgeries. This frees up clinical staff to get on with the important job of administering the vaccinations.
“We started just before Christmas and it has been going really well,” said Suzanne, Covid-19 vaccination programme manager.
“Having the support of the British Red Cross has been absolutely crucial – it would have been really difficult without them. The patients are really grateful as the volunteers are friendly, helpful and kind.”
Putting people at ease
Volunteers guide patients through the system, making sure they know where to register their attendance and where to wait – all the while socially distanced, of course.
“Our volunteers have been helping some of the people get in and out of cars or taxis as they might have mobility issues, then we are chaperoning people around and managing the process,” said volunteer supervisor James.
“Some people might be a bit worried about the vaccination but we are here to put people at ease, make them feel at home, and I think people who might have been worried have been pleasantly surprised by how easy the process is.”
Dorreen, 86, was apprehensive when she arrived to receive her jab. “I was a bit nervous; I didn’t think it would go smoothly,” said Dorreen. “It was so well-organised - a pleasant surprise!”
Meanwhile, 88-year-old Lilly also found the process easier than she had imagined it would be. “The experience was fine, all the people have been very helpful,” said Lilly. “It’s just something we have to get on with, nothing to be worried about – it’s wonderful to have volunteers to help out.”
Emergency response volunteer Demian, who has also volunteered with the Spanish Red Cross, helping people with disabilities, spoke of seeing the visible relief on the faces of some of the patients receiving their first vaccination.
“Most of the people would have been self-isolating for six months or more,” said Demian. “It is a relief for them to be able to go outside now with more confidence and to be relaxed. One lady, who was 87, said she had been at home for nine months. After getting the jab, she said finally the vaccine had given her more confidence to live her life.”
Another chapter in our long history
From the 1918 influenza pandemic onwards, the Red Cross has a long history of supporting disease prevention programmes in the UK and overseas. During the Second World War, we helped administer inoculations for diphtheria to families evacuated from their homes, and in 1951 we supported a smallpox vaccination effort in Sussex.
As with all our UK work, our focus will be on supporting the most vulnerable people in society, including anyone facing barriers to accessing the vaccine – whatever they may be.
- Learn the facts about vaccines on our new Covid-19 vaccine hub
- Vaccine voices: hear from people who have had their vaccine
- Read about our history of supporting vaccination in our online exhibition.