What I learned on Covid-19 vaccine duty

Radiographer Andrew England reflects on his experience administering vaccines.

Published: 19 March 2021 Professionalism

On Saturday 17 January 2021, I completed my first ever duty as a Covid-19 vaccinator. 

This was a role that I was initially very excited about but following training I was a little apprehensive in that there is significant responsibility in administering vaccines and this would be hugely different to my normal duties as a university lecturer and bank radiographer.  

Completing my first shift as a vaccinator gave me a huge sense of personal and professional pride and demonstrated the versatility that we can show as radiographers in meeting the challenges of the day. Upon reflecting on this day there were many positives, some of which were somewhat unexpected and potentially worthy of sharing.

Vaccinations were scheduled from 8.30am until around 5pm. A team of eight vaccinators were supported by a team of administrators, healthcare assistants and pharmacists. Over the day we managed to vaccinate more than 400 people using the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 mRNA vaccine.

Vaccinations took approximately five to 10 minutes per person. This relatively brief encounter felt common to me as a diagnostic radiographer; how we manage this perhaps could be identified as one of our key strengths.

For many radiology examinations, we need to learn a great deal about our patients quickly to conduct the examination efficiently and safely. Often a patient can present with a mass of information, including complex medical histories, details regarding current medications and allergies and healthcare attendance episodes.

As radiographers we must and do efficiently identify relevant material quickly to deliver optimum patient care, a key feature required within the vaccine clinic.

Seeking consent for vaccination will have similarities to seeking consent for imaging and therapy treatments. As we will all be aware, consent is both a legal and individual process. Consent must be tailored to the individual and obtained prior to undertaking the procedure. Again, a process that a radiographer will undertake many hundreds and thousands of times during their career across a huge range of patient types and examinations.

Applying vaccination safety checks in line with national protocols felt very familiar.

Working as a vaccinator reminded me of the safety checks we undertake when preparing a patient for contrast media administration or potentially any imaging investigation.

Also, the aftercare following a vaccination requires observing the patient for a short period of time for signs of an adverse reaction. This again brought back distinct memories of performing CT contrast studies and running intravenous urography lists.

One of the surprises of the day was in the interprofessional working. As a radiographer it is extremely common practice to work within multi-professional teams and develop multi-professional relationships. Within my clinical practice, except in theatre and interventional environments, many of the interactions occur without the
presence of other healthcare professions.

Within our vaccination team there were pharmacists, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals. The National (vaccination) Protocol provides a vehicle for a multitude of registered healthcare professionals to be trained to administer the Covid-19 vaccine. Working alongside other healthcare professionals provided an
opportunity to learn valuable skills but also demonstrate many of the valuable attributes of our profession.

I do not believe that the huge effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are lost on any of us.Radiographers, together with other healthcare professionals and most of our population, have risen to the challenges that Covid-19 has presented to us daily.

It has been a huge privilege to be able to work on the frontline and contribute to providing essential diagnostic imaging services during this pandemic. It has also been a huge privilege and great experience to be involved in administering the Covid-19 vaccine and I hope that we will start to see the effects of this very quickly.

In concluding, I would urge my fellow radiographers to consider training as a Covid- 19 vaccinator. I have found it to be an incredibly worthwhile role and a great opportunity to demonstrate many strengths of our profession.

Andrew England is a senior lecturer in radiography at Keele University and a bank radiographer.