A counsellor at Trinity Hospice has spoken of her joy at being among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and is looking forward to spending more time with her beloved granddaughters when restrictions allow.
Karen Brandwood, 59, has been shielding since COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced in March, only leaving home for short spells of exercise. But she has worked throughout the pandemic as the hospice’s Schools Link Co-ordinator, helping Fylde coast schools access counselling for staff and pupils.
Karen was offered the chance to receive the Pfizer vaccine as she is a vulnerable front-line worker who would otherwise be unable to return to work effectively on the front line for many more months.
Through Trinity’s links with the NHS, Karen was able to receive the vaccine on the first day it was made available.
She said: “As soon as I saw the email saying I could get the vaccine and instructions on what to do, I was on the phone. It was like an early Christmas present; it was my first step towards freedom.
“The vaccine itself was fine. I maybe felt a bit tired later in the day, but by the next morning it was like nothing had happened. I know there are people who are anxious about having the vaccine, but from my own experience, it’s absolutely fine.
“I know that things will still take a long time to get back to normal, especially now that we are in another lockdown, but I am a very independent person so it has been hard to put myself in other people’s hands. I haven’t stepped foot inside a shop since March.”
Karen had her first dose of the vaccine on December 8th, and is now looking forward to a time when she can be free to visit shops and return to work when the current lockdown is over.
“I am really looking forward to spending time with my four granddaughters, Bella, Isla, Scarlett and Beatrix,” she said.
“I’ve really missed those treasured hugs and being able to hold them. I’ve missed my family so much.
“Being out after all this time will take some adjusting, but I really feel like this is the first step on the road back to normality. I can walk down the road without feeling scared. I can’t wait.
“I honestly feel really lucky that, through my work at the hospice, I have been given the opportunity to have the vaccine and get back to work properly. I’m so thankful.”
Trinity’s Medical Director, Dr Gillian Au, said: “We really are very fortunate to have such strong links with our local NHS Trust who have enabled us to offer our highest risk staff this incredible vaccine. It is, as Karen says, their ‘first steps towards freedom’ and will mean we can lift the frustrating restrictions many of our staff have had on their work due to their individual risks.
“We are now rolling the vaccine out to all of our staff over the coming months so that we are as protected as possible in order to care for our community’s most vulnerable residents. We encourage everyone who is offered this vaccine to take it up. Only by doing so can we protect ourselves from the virus that has blighted us so severely throughout 2020.”
Karen has been working from home throughout the pandemic, providing counselling support to school workers via Zoom and telephone conferences.
But she said it has been hard not being with those who need support as anxiety levels were rising.
She said: “It’s been such a difficult time for staff working in our linked schools. We provide free staff listening, which really has been a lifeline to those struggling after seeing how COVID-19 has affected their own colleagues and loved ones.
“I really am looking forward to getting back into schools once we are all able.”