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St. John Ambulance volunteers help with northern B.C. vaccine clinics

David Valentine and Shelby at clinic in Fort St. John. Submitted photo

St. John Ambulance medical first responder volunteers from across the province are currently providing support and first aid at several COVID-19 vaccination clinics in northern B.C. communities.

The charity’s volunteers have been giving their time at clinics in Quesnel, Terrace, and Fort St. John. The volunteers on-site include a mix of local residents and others who traveled up from other areas in B.C. Each day they put in numerous hours to provide after care to those getting the vaccine. This includes monitoring patients for 15 minutes and providing first aid if needed for allergic reactions, injuries, or if any medical emergencies occur.

Margaret Symon, a 13-year volunteer for the Cowichan volunteer division of St. John Ambulance, was one of the volunteers that traveled to Terrace to give a week of her time. In this week, between 220 and 450 shots were administered.

“Many people expressed relief at getting the vaccine. A few were nervous about the jab and were grateful for a wellbeing check and friendly chat,” said Symon, in a news release. “When the nurses vaccinated individuals with a previous history of anaphylactic reactions, we were summoned to accompany the person to the observation area, where we remained with them for the duration of the waiting time. Fortunately, we observed no adverse effects to the vaccine.”

Symon called her time at the clinic an “experience with countless rewards”. She witnessed over 1,000 people get their first vaccine shot and was able to have meaningful conversations with residents.

“One lady said she was going directly to a care home, where since March of 2020, her elderly mother had been allowed only one designated visitor. Now that this lady was vaccinated, she would be permitted to visit. She couldn’t wait to see her mother and hold her hand for the first time in more than a year,” said Symon.

Volunteer and St. John Ambulance Provincial Commissioner David Valentine also provided support at northern B.C. clinics, but in Fort St. John. He traveled from Victoria and spent a week volunteering 10-hour days.

“If any of the nurses thought there might be an issue [with a patient], they would let us know and we would take particular attention to them. But we had no significant issues at all,” said Valentine. “It was a great experience; we were made to feel like we were part of the team. It was a good feeling knowing that we’d been able to help.”

Valentine said the most interesting part was watching the dynamic of patient reactions from when they first arrived to when they were leaving.

“At first, you could see they were apprehensive, they’re not sure what it’s all about,” said Valentine. “They left with big smiles, and every single one thanked us. For some, they said it was the first time they’d been out and able to socialize for months. I got the impression that it was a big relief.”

As more vaccines become available and more clinics are opened, St. John Ambulance remains committed to providing support along the way to Northern BC communities and beyond until the whole vaccination process is complete. Support their volunteer efforts at supportsja.ca/medicalfirstresponders.


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