Another first for hero firefighters in Lancashire as they prepare to give Covid-busting jabs
An army of firefighters from across Lancashire are helping to marshal at 21 Covid-19 vaccination sites - and will soon be doling out the jabs themselves.
Alongside community fire safety workers, the crews have been helping the elderly into centres across the county so they can receive the first of two life-saving doses, and then monitoring them to make sure they are okay afterwards.
Tim Murrell, group manager of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service's response and emergency planning team, said: "It's fantastic to be helping.
"We have always risen to the challenge of doing something different."
Although Tim humbly downplayed the fire service's role, saying the helpers are "just there to make the place more efficient", Lancashire is thought to be the only fire service in the UK currently helping out in such a way at vaccine sites.
Around 70 people are spending their shifts - and free time on weekends - marshalling, and that number could soon swell to more than 150 as vaccine efforts intensify.
Support and operational staff, as well as managers, are also helping.
Tim, a veteran of 32 years who is based at the fire service's headquarters in Fulwood, Preston, said: "We have obviously got to ramp up when mass vaccination sites come online, but we have to be careful; we have to crew the fire engines and we have our usual activities to do."
Around 50 volunteers have had initial vaccination training, and will get more before passing a test and getting more involved.
"We can't carry out clinical assessments but we can do the injections," Tim said, adding that crews have a "unique set of skills" which are transferable, including trauma and fire safety training.
As well as helping out in several past crises around the world, firefighters have played an active role in anti-coronavirus efforts - such as transporting personal protective equipment (PPE) - since the virus arrived on our shores early last year to decimate normal life, at least for the time being.
Tim added: "It's an unbelievable experience to help do this. Every staff member has said how worthwhile and fulfilling it has been for them."
Justin Johnston, Lancashire's chief fire officer, tweeted yesterday: "All of the online training has been done. Now the physical vaccination training has started. Firefighters as vaccinators. Amazing."
In November, after Government sources told a national newspaper that firefighters would join a specially-trained army of 40,000 extra workers recruited to roll out jabs at record speed, Lancashire's fire service said staff "have been providing a wide range of support to the communities since the start of the pandemic".
It added: "We have taken part in the distribution of food stocks for vulnerable people, the distribution of bulk PPE to care homes, and engaging with at risk communities whilst also maintaining our emergency response.
"The service is ready and willing to assist the NHS in the rollout of the vaccination programme across Lancashire and we are continuing to support the planning with the Lancashire Resilience Forum about our specific role.”
Downing Street said the Government remains committed to rolling out the coronavirus vaccine as rapidly as possible.
“Our focus is on getting the vaccination into people’s arms as quickly as possible. We can obviously only move as fast as the supply of the vaccine is made available,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“Manufacturing will increase and the NHS will continue to ramp up to ensure we can provide more and more vaccines throughout this month, through February and throughout the year in order to vaccinate all adults by the autumn.”
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