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I’m a doctor & in a high-risk group for COVID-19: Why I volunteer on the frontline

Paul Robinson, patient engagement lead for MSD in Europe, on how he’s helping vaccinate people in the U.K. against COVID-19

April 13, 2021

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It has always been important to me to retain my belief that I am a doctor. I work in the pharmaceutical industry to help patients.

I have spent 27 years with MSD, in R&D, medical affairs and patient engagement. MSD has always had a volunteering policy, allowing employees to spend 40 hours a year volunteering, but for COVID-related work, this limit has been lifted for those of us who have healthcare qualifications – and we employ many doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics etc.

I have maintained my medical license throughout my 30 years in the industry, but I was conscious that returning to frontline hospital care of really sick patients was a bit of a stretch (and a bit of a risk, as I am in a high-risk group). So, when the vaccination rollout came along, I knew that it was right for me.

The online training was extensive, with refreshers about dealing with anaphylaxis, injection technique, vaccine handling, data protection etc. I signed up with a local pharmacy – vaccination at pharmacies is routine in the U.K., for flu and travel jabs so this is not new. Many of the volunteers have no medical background at all but have been trained.

I currently volunteer 2-3 half days a week. We book patients in every 5 minutes, so that’s about 110 patients a day each vaccinator. The U.K. is vaccinating at a rate of about 500,000 a day, which is quite impressive, and the logistics needed to supply the vaccination centres, manage the volunteers and book appointments is working fairly well: Nearly 30 million having had their first dose now, and hospitalisation rates falling.

Many people have been desperate to get the jab, and the sense of relief when that first vaccine goes in is often palpable. There have been tears. It’s the first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for many, to travel to see loved ones, mix with their families, get life back to normal. We’re not out of the woods, but we know which direction will take us there. Vaccine confidence is high, I think, with many of those previously hesitant coming forward, but we have confidence issues in some cultural groups, which needs to be addressed.

Excerpted from an article originally published on EFPIA