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Hermitage volunteer speaks of Covid trials and triumphs at Newbury vaccination centre

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A Hermitage man has spoken of his experiences as a volunteer at the Kennet Vaccination Centre in Newbury, administering thousands of jabs to local people.

Robert Simon has no formal medical background, although he acquired a knowledge of first aid during his years in the local construction industry.

He retired a year ago, and, with the UK's anti-Covid drive pushing ahead, was inspired to volunteer as a vaccine worker, undertaking training with St John Ambulance Service.

Robert Simon vaccinating his daughter, Danielle Salmon.
Robert Simon vaccinating his daughter, Danielle Salmon.

He said: "When I retired, and all this Covid kicked off, I read that you could sign up with St John to train to be a vaccinator.

"You had to do various tests - a DBS test, and everything like that, educating you to a certain standard - and then you're learning on a portal, and then some practical with St John.

"And there you go!"

Mr Simon qualified in January, but was only allowed to start work as a vaccinator in June.

While this means he was not jabbing during the early stages of the vaccine roll-out, he since said he has personally administered around 3,000 doses.

He said: "It's been really, really good, actually - one of the most worthwhile things in my life, I've got to be honest.

"It's a bit nervous when you do the first couple of vaccines, but, once you've done them, you're pretty much up and running."

Indeed, Mr Simon has praised the professionalism and organisation of his team at the Kennet Shopping centre unit, stressing that its capacity to provide jabs to the community has increased over time.

The unit has moved location within the shopping centre, and the addition of new 'pods' - spaces for vaccination - has had impressive results.

Among those Mr Simon has vaccinated are his family, friends and former colleagues, including his daughter, Danielle Salmon.

He said: "In the old place, we actually managed to do 1,000 a day, but now, where we are in the new place - where there's 12 pods - we've done 3,000 in one day, and 10,000 over one weekend.

"We're a really well-oiled machine down there, we've been together a long time. It's like a family, really.

"Generally, we don't have much of a queue - if there's a queue, you normally don't wait longer than 15 minutes in Newbury. We get through it very, very quickly."

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