What is the mass vaccination programme?

NHS England and NHS Improvement has asked St John Ambulance to support its mass vaccination programme.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, St John’s highly skilled volunteers have already given hundreds of thousands of hours of their time, supporting the NHS in caring for patients on board ambulances, in hospitals and as part of vital community projects, such as this year’s seasonal flu vaccinations.

All of that work continues, and the charity has now been tasked with training thousands of volunteers ready to administer COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as they are available.

Our clinical expertise and the skills of St John people mean that we’re a volunteer-led health and first aid charity with local presence and nationwide reach, ideally positioned to support the delivery of a vaccination programme.

We are now leading a team of voluntary sector partners in supporting NHS staff vaccinating the nation’s at-risk groups against flu. By building capability and capacity with our existing volunteers and training additional people, we will be ready to support COVID-19 immunisations as soon as safe and effective vaccines becomes available.

Who are you wanting to recruit? And when?

Between now and spring 2021, we have plans to train more than 30,000 volunteers. Using our longstanding expertise, we will empower people with lifesaving clinical skills and the confidence to use them.

With around 10,000 skilled first aid volunteers within St John, the initial phase of our vaccination training programme will focus on asking those people to get signed up, trained and ready to be deployed.

Then, we’ll be reaching out to our existing networks – our workplace first aid training delegates, our voluntary sector partners, and businesses – to recruit and train extra vaccination volunteers.

What will the volunteers be doing? What roles are available?  

There are roles specific to the vaccination programme: Volunteer Vaccinator, Vaccination Care Volunteer and Patient Advocate. Some people, specifically the volunteer vaccinators, will be able to give vaccinations, but others are there to support people as they go through the process of having a flu or COVID-19 vaccination. This is a frightening time for people and there are groups of patients who are going to need one-to-one support, for example due to a visual impairment or other disability.  

What medical conditions would prevent me from taking part in the programme?

People classified by the NHS as being clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 cannot take part. Your safety, and the safety of those you will be working with, is of the utmost importance to us. Find out which groups are vulnerable on the NHS website 

What training will you receive?

All volunteers will meet strict selection criteria, mandated by the NHS, and receive appropriate clinical training, including official courses developed in partnership with and approved by NHS England. As well as extensive training, they will be subject to assessments and clinical supervision to ensure their own safety and that of everyone receiving the vaccine.

St John trained 250,000 people in first aid last year, some of whom had limited or no previous first aid experience but, by providing a comprehensive set of practical skills, now have the ability and knowledge to confidently deal with first aid emergencies.

We are a training organisation with a track record of delivering excellent first aid training to the public, and enhanced and specialist skills to our people within a defined skillset; this is an extension of the work St John Ambulance does every day.

Do you need any previous experience?

No, you can apply for any of the roles without prior experience as all the training you need will be provided.

You will be asked a series of qualifying questions as some groups of people are more at risk of complications should they contract COVID-19 and these people may not be able to volunteer straight away. The Volunteer Vaccinator role will require you to have at least 2 A Levels or the equivalent.

We are working to NHS England's specifications and our volunteers will meet the same criteria as NHS people who will be doing this work and will have gone through the same training if they’re fulfilling the same role.

Is it safe for someone with no previous medical experience to be involved with this programme?

We are working to NHS England's specifications, and as well as the extensive training with a pass/fail assessment, they will be subject to assessments (observed vaccinations) and clinical supervision at each of the vaccination sites by a health care professional to ensure the safety of patients and that of the volunteers.

How many volunteers will be needed in each role?

Based on initial assumptions, and working with the NHS, we are looking to recruit up to 10,000 Volunteer Vaccinators, 14,350 Vaccination Care Volunteers and 6,150 Patient Advocates.

How long will training take and where will I have to go to be trained? 

Training requirements for vaccination volunteer roles vary from 21.5 hours for a Volunteer Vaccinator to 12.5 hours for a Patient Advocate. Training is a blend of online learning and COVID-secure, face-to-face training, over a period of four weeks.

How does recruitment work?

You can click here to start your journey. Our system will help you understand which role(s) you may be suitable for, so that you can complete an application.

Once you have applied, you’ll book an interview with a member of our Welcome Team, so you can discuss whether you are right for the role.

Very soon after this, you’ll receive log-in details so you can begin your virtual training. Depending on your current skills and the role you have been assigned to, you will receive between two hours and a full day of classroom training. All our classroom training is COVID-secure.

When the vaccine is ready and you’re able to sign up for shifts, you will be invited to your volunteering location for your final training with the NHS.

How many shifts can I do?

We need a commitment of at least two shifts per month from the time the vaccine is available. If you feel able to do more, that’s fantastic! We will always take volunteers work-life patterns and wellbeing into account. Shifts will last up to eight hours.

Can I volunteer if I have a health condition?

There are many health conditions that put someone at higher risk from COVID-19, and we are committed to reducing that risk of harm as much as possible. When you start your journey, we will ask some questions about your health.

If you cannot start volunteering straight away, we will keep your details for later. We hope that once the vaccine starts working it will become safer for you to volunteer.

Why do I need educational qualifications to become a Vaccination Volunteer?

Under legal and NHS guidance, to be trained to safely give an injection of this type, a person needs to have achieved at least two A-Levels or the equivalent during their education.

If you do not have two A-Levels, or equivalent higher qualifications, then our Vaccination Care Volunteer and Volunteer Patient Advocate roles are still open to you. These are incredibly important roles and we’d love to have you on board!

What support will I get?

You will have a Vaccination Volunteer Lead who will keep in touch with you. You’ll first hear from them shortly after your recruitment is complete. They’ll stay in touch before the vaccine is ready, and keep in touch while the vaccination programme is going on.

Will volunteers wear PPE?

Yes, all those in close patient contact will be required to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) in line with the current guidance from Public Health England and NHS England.

How long will it take to process my registration?

We have received a high number of applications to the vaccination programme, so completing your application may take some time. We thank everyone for their interest and will be in touch as soon as possible.

Where can I found out more about the process?

Download our Journey Guide