As an over-90-year-old resident in Church Street ward, I had already asked my local Lisson Grove Health Centre at the end of December if there was any news about vaccinating arrangements, but they had no information at all. On 12th January, I spoke to the Market Chemist and asked the pharmacist owner if his premises might be used as a vaccination hub. He had not heard anything and also had not been offered an appointment himself.
That same day I had a phone call from the Health Centre offering me a time on Thursday 14th January, which I accepted immediately. My very kind next door neighbour offered to drive me to Lords Cricket Ground where the vaccinations were being given, and on the 14th, in pouring rain, we set off, arriving half an hour early for the 10.20am appointment.
I was worried about queueing in the rain as I am registered disabled and walk with the aid of a 3-wheel rollator. However, as I and my “wheels” got out of the car at the Grace Gate in St John’s Wood Road one of several masked “helpers” came forward and told me to go in at the gate and to a small lift immediately to my left. Another helper was by the lift who saw me into the lift and pressed the lift button for me, saying “It’s the first floor”.
I stepped out of the lift on the first floor into a welcome warm atmosphere and on to a thick carpet. There were guide arrows on the floor and I went into a vast reception room: at the far end, there were about 20 chairs spaced out from each other, some them occupied. At the long table by the door a young woman asked my name, checked her list and directed me to a chair by another long table where about six nurses/doctors appeared to be attending to individual residents.
I only had to wait about 3 or 4 minutes and I was asked to approach the table by a doctor who identified himself and checked my name/age etc. He said the (Pfizer) injection would be in the left arm. I took my mac off and rolled up my sleeve: he gently took my upper arm and I turned my head to look idly round the room, and he said “did you feel it?” and no, I hadn’t.
He gave me a signed medical card and an explanatory leaflet and directed me to one of the spaced-out chairs and said I should rest there for a little while before leaving. This I did, enjoying the warmth of the room and the low buzz of conversation. After about ten minutes I got up and left the way I had come in, so it was along the corridor and to the lift, again with a young helper to press the lift button for me, and out onto the icy wet road. Another guide accompanied me out of the gate and I stepped into a taxi, which was parked with others by the kerb. The whole episode took just over an hour: everyone concerned, staff and helpers, wore a face mask.
I cannot speak too highly of the kindness and courtesy of all the volunteer helpers and of the doctor who did the injection. The room was full of very elderly people, many in wheel chairs, but no-one spoke to them in a patronising tone, as so often happens when one is old. The atmosphere throughout was cheerful and encouraging in that brightly lit warm space. I would urge everyone who receives an appointment to attend at whatever location indicated, as this opportunity for vaccination is the start of daylight coming in to all our dark lives, with the prospect, as the Doctor confirmed, of a later follow-up inspection. We have to avail ourselves of this great medical gift.