‘They’re so overjoyed, they realise there’s hope’

A Listowel native and Chief Pharmacist at a Dublin Hospital has spoken of how she and her colleagues gave up their free time to help in the vaccination of over 800 high-risk and elderly patients in Dublin nursing homes.

ane Anne O’Connor, from Bedford in Listowel, now works as the Chief Pharmacist at the Royal Victoria Eye & Ear Hospital in Dublin, and it’s from there that she has been setting out during the past two weeks as she’s been involved in helping nurses to administer COVID vaccines to those must vulnerable.

Speaking to The Kerryman, Jane spoke of seeing the joy in the nursing-home residents, some of whom cannot hold back tears of happiness, as they receive the vaccine, and of the intricacies involved in getting the vaccine ready to be injected.

“With 48 hours’ notice, a few of the nurses, the secretary and myself and another colleague from the Eye and Ear hospital in Dublin went out, and we were vaccinating in nursing homes,” said Jane.

“We did one Saturday, and then we did every morning last week, and we vaccinated about 800 residents and staff in nursing homes. Then, between the Friday and a few bits and pieces of time over the last week, we were able to vaccinate another 200 of our own staff in work.

“So, it’s the bones of 1,000 people we did in the past two weeks essentially,” Jane continued.

Jane also detailed what’s involved in getting a vaccine ready to be administered; a complicated process must be adhered to to ensure that no vaccine doses are wasted.

“Our jobs were to get the vaccines ready to hand to the nurses, who would then be ready to administer the vaccine,” said Jane. “There are a lot of checks and steps involved.

“The vial needs to be inverted 10 times, and the cold chain has to be maintained all along. The vials are very sensitive to transportation stress, so my technician would have had to sit in the back of the car to make sure the vaccine is kept flat inside the cool box.

“All the time, she would have to keep an eye on the temperature as well,” she said.

“Then we’d get there, and we’d put it in a fridge before we would take out one vial at a time.

“You have to slowly invert the vial 10 times before drawing up 1.8mls of sodium chloride into a syringe, and then you have to slowly invert it another 10 times.

“After this, you’ve to check that there are no particles or colour discolouration before you draw up into a syringe, and you hand it to a nurse,” she said.

Any misstep along the way, Jane said, and the vaccine dose will be useless and will have to be thrown away.

The utmost care has to be taken all the way through the process.

And while this was all done by the staff on a voluntary basis, Jane said that giving up their weekend and their early mornings was a very small price to pay, especially when she saw the joy that the vaccine brought to the residents of the nursing homes they worked in.

“It’s amazing to think we did it. When you went into the nursing homes and you give the vaccine, a lot of the elderly are so overjoyed to think ‘oh my God, there’s hope yet’.

“They’re almost like sitting ducks there in a way because they are waiting and worried whether COVID is going to get in and whether they are going to catch it. It’s a constant worry for both the staff and the residents.

“Some of the residents, they start crying when they get it because they say that they never thought that they’d see the day where they’d get it.”

Independent.ie – News