A MASS vaccination centre boss firmly believes targets for rolling out the jab will be met as the Covid-19 immunisation drive speeds ahead.
Jo Dolan is central area vaccination project leader for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), based at Venue Cymru in Llandudno.
She gave unfettered access to the site she set-up for the board to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) and retraced the steps of more than 25,000 vaccinated citizens at this centre alone (as of Tuesday this week).
Used to staging large productions the entertainment complex has stepped up to perform the most important role of its 14 year history, after being morphed into Ysbyty’r Enfys – The Rainbow Hospital – last April.
Despite not being required as a step-down facility for recovering Covid-19 patients as planned, it has hosted maternity outpatient appointments, antibody testing and admin by Betsi Cadwaladr and its own staff since last July.
When the mass vaccination programme was being planned last summer, it was an obvious choice.
On arrival a car parking attendant checked our names and guided us to our spot, but parking is really tight due to the numbers arriving and leaving all day.
It’s something Ms Dolan was keen to elaborate on, with the numbers of people passing through in a near constant stream.
She said: “The aim each day is to get through 1,170 (vaccinations). We have a battle with them as every hour about 100 people are coming through the building.
“We have about 12 people arriving every five minutes and we have at least 12 lanes of vaccinators running.
“It’s imperative people turn up at the right time. We’re running a Covid secure service, so we can’t allow too many people into the building.
“So we’re asking people to come on time, not to come early. If you come 15 minutes early you’ll have a 15 minute wait outside – it’s really critical. And don’t come with another person, as that’s another person in the queue.”
We were met by members of RAF Cranwell’s band, although they had sadly left their instruments behind to offer logistical support to the vaccination effort.
One of 30 air force and army personnel on site, corporal Philippa Hartley said the experience had been “really positive”.
“People are so grateful,” she added. “Some people get really emotional – it’s like the beginning of the end for them.”
A previous posting, doing mobile testing near Wolverhampton, hadn’t been so universally welcomed she explained.
She said: “There was a massive reaction. People were wondering why the armed forces were on the streets.”
Ushered into the building we were moved around the entrance where our name was checked and an information pack handed to us with a number attached.
A checklist asking about our general health and medical condition and separate information leaflet, with technical information about the the jab and its side-effects, was also handed to us.
A second check of who we are and more cheery volunteers guide us to a room more used to conferences or even Grand Prix snooker tournaments.
However the shots being taken in here are far more important than Judd Trump or Ronnie Sullivan ever executed.
There’s an unerring feeling of positivity – from the ranks of aircraftmen and women to nurse manager Lottie Wilson, from vaccinator Debra Willitt to deputy team manager Bethan Williams, from Venue Cymru staff to the army of volunteers.
Lottie, who simultaneously speaks to us and scours the room to make sure all is going to plan, explains assistants holding up numbered green paddles are showing they are ready to take their next appointment.
There’s a calm sense of unity and purpose, a positivity, which squashes the doom of endless negative social media posts from cod Facebook and Twitter “doctors” and conspiracy theorists.
A big screen lets all staff and volunteers know how many people have been immunised and everyone keeps a keen eye on the numbers as they rise.
The only time the faces of those trying to get us vaccinated darkens is when you mention the voices trying to undermine their efforts.
Ms Dolan is straight and to the point when tackled about claims of wasted vaccines.
She said: “We have had no vaccines not used in this establishment at all. We have an hourly dose count and we have administrators on the shop floor checking rates of people who do not attend.
“We have a team upstairs calling people in priority groups to come in and have those vaccines.”
Early on there was an issue with double-booking people because inputting names of those vaccinated was hampered by computer system problems but, she says, that’s been solved and it’s not an issue now.
When asked if any vials of the vaccine have gone out of date, Ms Dolan said: “Nothing’s gone out of date. Every vaccine we have been given, we have delivered. There is vaccine for everybody.”
Another topic on social media is our reaction to the injection itself. She said: “When you consider the numbers that have gone through this establishment, there haven’t been any major reactions, no.”
The questions we are asked by deputy team manager Bethan Williams as I enter the vaccination bay explain why her statement makes sense.
After my identity is checked again I’m grilled on potential allergies, health issues, medication and warned of possible after-effects of the jab, then asked if I understand and still want to continue.
Just to be clear, although I went through the entire process, I didn’t receive a vaccination. There are far more deserving people who need it before me – and neither was I offered one.
Post-injection you are guided to a quiet area where people are monitored for a few minutes to make sure they’ve had no adverse reaction to the jab.
In two hours of constant throughput we didn’t see one person in any level of discomfort. That is what we witnessed.
We met couple, Elizabeth Corns and husband David, both 72 and from Towyn, after they had received their inoculations.
Mrs Corns said: “It was fantastic. It can’t be faulted it was that quick. It’s not difficult at all and I would advise anyone to come here and have it.
“When we had the phone call to come down I was really excited. I was glad because I’ve got a heart condition, so it was a big relief – a big relief.”
She said having the injection has made her more hopeful for the future.
Husband David agreed, saying: “I would like to thank everyone in this building. It makes you feel good. There’s some hope now.”
To return to the snooker analogies, this might just be the biggest break this building has ever witnessed.