These are the volunteers who have helped immunise 70,000 in Doncaster against Covid

Self employed businessman Brian Samson walks up to a blue plastic chair, which has just been vacated.

By David Kessen
Thursday, 18th February 2021, 4:45 pm

He sprays it with disinfectant and gives it a thorough wiping down, before moving on to his next job.

Usually, the 52-year-old from Skellow would be running his Doncaster town centre leisure business. But while that is closed by lockdown, he has become one of the legion of volunteers helping run vaccination centres which have already given first doses to more than 70,000 people in Doncaster.

He is clear why he wants to do something to help stop the coronavirus pandemic – he has already lost a relative.

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The vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster

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Brian, who has been helping at the Keepmoat Stadium centre, said: “I have a sister-in-law from Essex who died of Covid. She had no other health issues.

"It’s like Russian Roulette. I’m cleaning chairs here today, but I’ll do anything to help beat this pandemic. She died on January 29, and I decided I had to do something.

"You can feel so powerless. But Yorkshire is doing well in the vaccinations and it is nice to be a small cog in the bigger wheel. It’s good to get to speak to people, and they’re grateful to be getting the vaccine."

Brian Samson working as a volunteer at the Covid vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster

He is one of over 120 volunteers at the Doncaster vaccination centres. Between them and the NHS workers, they were expecting to administer 600 doses during the day at the Keepmoat.

Those arriving for their jabs are initially met by Anthony Finney, a 36-year-old satellite television engineer from Lindholme. He provides a squirt of hand sanitiser and tells people where they should go and who to meet inside.

He is still working full time, fitting his voluntary role with his day job shifts. His wife, Cindy, works at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

"If I can do one day a week I’ll do that,” he said. “I wanted to give a bit back and help out where I can.

Anthony Finney working as a volunteer at the Covid vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster

"I have a friend who I went to school with whose father, Kevin Smith, who worked at the Doncaster Royal infirmary, passed away after contracting Covid. That came as a shock and hit us all hard.”

Volunteer Natalie Shaw, aged 50, from Doncaster, was helping direct the public to their vaccine stations. Natalie retired after 30 years with South Yorkshire Police in 2019.

She herself was affected by the coronavirus. Her 74-year-old father caught the disease while receiving cancer treatment at Chesterfield hospital. He did not need to be on a ventilator.

Natalie cared for him after he left hospital at the end of his successful treatment.

Natalie Shaw working as a volunteer at the Covid vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster

When the hospital called to say that he tested positive for Covid, she herself had a test.

Although she had shown no symptoms, she also tested positive and self isolated. She never felt ill with it, and does not blame the hospital.

She said: “Dad’s not as well as he was before, but we don’t know how much is cancer and how much is Covid.

"It was hard not being able to visit him in hospital.

"When the vaccine centre opened, I wanted to do something, and because I’d recovered from it before I perhaps felt a little less vulnerable than some.”

She said she had found people positive and keen to take up the vaccine.

Retired doctor Carolyn Bloor working as a volunteer at the Covid vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster

At the vaccination station sat Carolyn Bloor, from Bessacarr. Until December 2019, Carolyn, aged 59, was a GP at Petersgate Medical Centre in Scawthorpe.

Now she is giving injections at the stadium.

She said: “I retired just before the pandemic started, so I haven’t seen its effects in the same way as those in general practice at the moment.

"But I wanted to do something positive. I’ve been doing this here and in Adwick.”

There was also a familiar face among the volunteers. Rosie Winterton, Doncaster MP and deputy speaker at the House of Commons has been volunteering during the recess at parliament. Moving between patients with a list, she said it was incredible see how the NHS workers were making sure the process ran like clockwork.

Former Doncaster Free Press deputy editor Kath Newton, aged 63, from Bessacarr, volunteered after retiring late last year. She said she wanted to be part of the solution.

She said: "It's been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The organisation and efficiency of the NHS teams is amazing. People receiving their vaccine have been very appreciative of everyone's efforts.They see it as a great community effort and evidence that there is some light at the end of the tunnel."

Anthony Fizgerald, director of strategy and delivery at Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning group said the volunteers had been fantastic and the work could not have been done without them.

He said: “We’ve got well over 120 people now who have signed up to help our various vaccination sites.

"They’re crucial in making sure our public know what they’re doing, where they should stand, what will happen when they’re about to have their vaccination and then making sure that they’re safe and that everyone is OK in the observation period after they’ve had the vaccine. They’ve been absolutely crucial and I’d just like to thank all the people from right across Doncaster and the number of organisation and people who have volunteered to help – they’ve been essential.”

Cath Witherington, chief executive of Voluntary Action Doncaster, said: “We have had over 200 volunteers come forward through our Voluntary Action Doncaster recruitment process.

"They are all doing a fantastic job. There is an ongoing need for this type of work, and we also need people willing to support in community roles as well. With over 3,000 people being added to the shielding list in Doncaster, we will also be looking out for volunteers who are able to help with things like collecting shopping, collecting prescriptions, befriending.

To volunteer, email [email protected] or calling us on 01302 965459, or online on https://www.vcconnectsystem.org.uk/VADoncasterVMS2/CovidRegistration/Register.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.

Rosie Winterton working as a volunteer at the Covid vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster
The vaccination clinic at the Keepmoat Sadium, Doncaster vaccination clinic. Left to right: Rosie Winterton MP, Kath Newton, Heather Bell, Ann Steele, all volunteers.
Anthony Fitzgerald, Director of Strategy & Delivery at Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, at the vaccination centre at the Keepmoat Stadium