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King’s medical students join the vaccination effort

Roar writer Mia Williams on a group of King’s medical students who singlehandedly bolstered Britain’s Covid-19 vaccination effort in a 24-hour “vaccine-a-thon” 

On Friday 17th December 2021, a group of King’s students organised a 24-hour vaccine service at Morris House General Practice in Haringey, North London. Led by Dr. Russel Hearn, the vaccine-a-thon ran for 24 hours from 6pm that Friday.

The event gave medical students who study at King’s GKT School of Medicine the opportunity to be involved in the effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and even catch the attention of the national media. However it wasn’t only students from the medical school at King’s that offered to volunteer. Law and Geography students also took part to help with the administrative roles within the service and one History student took the necessary training to be able to administer the jabs. 

The event staffed a total of 150 people, and the team were able to deliver 4,500 vaccines during the 24-hour period. Dr. Hearn stated that 93% of the jabs given were booster doses, 4% first doses and 3% second doses. Patients came from as far as Liverpool to get their vaccine, and although the event was advertised as a 24-hour programme, the clinic was actually in operation for 33 hours. 

One student that took part in the 24-hour vaccine service, Bilaal Ahmed, one of the participating medical students, stated that “the experience gave a lot of insight into working with patients on a full night shift, which I will hopefully soon be doing as a future junior doctor.”

The jab-a-thon gave people who would not normally be able to go for a vaccine due to their day-to-day schedules, the opportunity to go and get protected against the virus. Citizens such as police officers working night shifts, along with ambulance staff and restaurant servers attended the clinic. Bilaal observed that “many people working in government services as paramedics and police officers found the night time the best opportunity to get themselves vaccinated, which is paramount in our national efforts to vaccinate as many people as we can, particularly those who work with the public on a daily basis.”

Dr. Hearn said “Since the government started to urge people to get their booster, we saw a huge increase in walk-in demand and our appointments were booked up. On an average day we can vaccinate 1000 patients and we wanted to increase capacity. We thought, why not work through the night to give people who are unable to get a booster during working hours an opportunity to get a jab?”

The event wasn’t all needles and virus protection, however, the staff were kept in good spirits by a pizza delivery and ice cream sundaes at 2am, along with a pancake breakfast to see them through the busy day. 

The experience was essential for the medical students that took part, it allowed them to gain confidence working with patients, working as a team, getting clinical experience, and often working whilst feeling extremely tired! 

The students were an integral part of the process. Dr Hearn said “Our site has been a success because students have been part of the leadership and design. Other hubs have struggled with staffing to give people vaccines, but we’ve had amazing students to help deliver these vaccines.”

With the launch of the government’s “Get Boosted Now” campaign on December 15th, the 24-hour clinic came at the perfect time, where demand for booster vaccines was skyrocketing due to the rise of the highly-infectious Omicron variant. However, the vaccine-a-thon was also valuable for the students who took part. Bilaal added “from taking part, I feel as though I gained a lot of confidence in myself working extremely long hours and keeping focused throughout.

”It was a huge group effort, with amazing doctors like Dr Hearn, and the most caring care coordinators Fran, Kyle and Tamsin. A lot of effort went in behind the scenes to ensure that it was a success.”

Visitors to this clinic outside of the 24-hour vaccine-a-thon include the Duchess of Cornwall, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. 

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