How Lewes’ covid vaccine champion is helping boost jab rates in the district
Lewes’ designated covid vaccine champion has explained how she is helping the fight against the virus by encouraging people to get their jabs.
Sarah Pearson is one of 100 volunteers across the county who has been trained by NHS Sussex Health Commissioners to provide accurate, reliable information about the vaccine and its roll-out locally to their communities.
During the ‘dreadful’ early months of the pandemic when a vaccine seemed like a distant dream, Mrs Pearson said she felt ‘so desperate to do something to help’.
“When the vaccine programme came along, I just thought it was so incredible, that science had moved so far,” she Mrs Pearson, who lives in Lewes and has a background in social psychology and marketing.
“I’m a great believer in the vaccine programme and in helping people protect themselves and others for the good of all, I’m a real enthusiast.”
To help keep local people informed, she set up the Lewes COVID19 Vaccination Info Hub on Facebook, where she posts key messages from the NHS and acts as a point-of-contact for residents.
Her ‘small success stories’ so far have involved encouraging people to attend the large hubs at the Brighton Centre and Eastbourne’ Welcome Building, chatting to residents about concerns, reassuring them and referring them to their GP for any medical issues.
“The most important thing is to listen and reassure, and make sure people are really as well-informed as they can be about their decision,” she said.
Among the common concerns were from people waiting for their second dose who feared they would miss out or ‘slip through the net’.
Mrs Pearson has been reassuring people that they will be contacted by their GP within 12 weeks.
She is also urging anyone who has concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine not to miss their second dose.
“There are people they can talk to at the vaccination centres,” she said. “They really shouldn’t risk their second dose.
“Blood clots are so extremely rare. The amazing experts are really super clear that they should receive the vaccine and get both doses.”
Mrs Pearson said it was ‘really nice’ to know that, thanks to her support, some anxious residents had been reassured enough to get their jab.
“It’s just amazing to be honest,” she said. “It’s a bit of an honour.”
However with figures showing that 117,000 eligible people in Sussex had still not had their first dose, she said there was still an ‘uphill’ challenge ahead. “We’ve still got quite a lot of work to do.”
She urged anyone in this position to book an appointment as soon as possible by calling 119, using the national booking system online or contacting their GP.
Foundry Healthcare Lewes – a cluster of four GP surgeries in the area – was one of the first GP groups to be approved for the vaccination roll-out in East Sussex.
The latest figures show that, out of a total 30,000 patients registered at the group, 14,698 people have had their first dose so far and 3,791 have had their second.
People aged 45 to 49 now being invited for their jabs and can either book appointments themselves by calling 119, visiting the online national booking service, or waiting to hear from their GP.
Find out more about the vaccine roll-out in Sussex here.