March 19, 2021 2.59 pm This story is over 15 months old

Rebecca Neno: COVID-19 vaccinations are “two sprints and a marathon”

We’ve done one sprint, about to start out second

— Rebecca Neno is the deputy chief nurse for the SRO COVID-19 vaccination programme at NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group. This column is part of a series marking one year of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHS is currently undertaking one of its biggest challenges in its history in the planning and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination programme whilst ensuring people can still access NHS services from cradle to grave.

In Lincolnshire we have risen to this challenge, enabling over 90% of over 70s to have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination and we remain focussed on the achievement of the targets set out by the government to ensure our county isn’t left behind in the vaccination race.

The overall programme has been described as two sprints and a marathon, we have completed the first sprint and we are just about to commence the second with the marathon to be completed during the summer months.

Planning began back in late summer 2020; in fact I remember attending the meeting vividly where we were asked to commence planning for a mass vaccination programme.

Planning commenced for a programme that we didn’t fully understand and where there were more questions than answers but that didn’t stop us from rolling up our sleeves and focussing on the required job.

It was apparent from day one that all parts of the NHS in Lincolnshire along with our partners including the County Council, Lincolnshire Resilience Forum, the voluntary services and the military needed to work together to ensure we could deliver the programme for the people of Lincolnshire.

I have worked, as a nurse, in the NHS for over 25 years and I have never before seen the coming together of people and organisations with a combined enthusiasm and goal of bringing this pandemic under control and the return of our lives to some normality.

I can’t underestimate the personal commitment shown by the team who have spent many hours beyond those paid to deliver the programme in Lincolnshire and as a resident I will remain grateful for many years to come.

Our successes have been vast and my aim of ensuring Lincolnshire had access to early vaccination was realised when we opened our first hospital hub at Lincoln County Hospital on December 8, 2020.

We quickly followed this success with the opening of two local vaccination sites in Louth and Grantham the following week.

Over the coming weeks we added another hospital hub in Boston and 11 more local vaccination sites run by our amazing GP Practices working together to ensure local access for those unable to travel distances, for the housebound and for those that prefer to access a vaccination closer to home.

During January 2021 we added two mass vaccination centres, the first at the Princess Royal Sports Arena in Boston which was the first to open in the East Midlands and today remains one of the larger sites within the region and the second at the Showground in Lincoln.

Daily, these sites are able to vaccinate 1500 and 1000 people respectively and the workforce has been employed specifically for this task.

In Lincolnshire we have an amazing voluntary support network and working together our voluntary organisations are providing all the non-clinical roles and support to the mass vaccination centres.

We have much to celebrate in Lincolnshire and our achievements to date have been incredible but there is still more to do, we have the marathon ahead and we need to work with some groups to understand and overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Resilience and persistence are required but together we will succeed, there is now a light that is shining at the end of the tunnel which is getting brighter each day.