The story of my first COVID vaccine as a person living with sight loss

Our Senior Rehabilitation Officer, Simon, regularly works in close contact with our service users, providing vital rehab support to people living with sight loss across Greater Manchester.
In this blog, Simon tells us about his experience of receiving his COVID-19 vaccine, as a person with low vision himself...

Introduction

Well it all happened last week… it was busy (as usual), when I got the call to go for my first vaccination for COVID-19.  That certainly opened up a lot of questions when you can’t see very well!

How do I book on? Where is it? How will I find my way round the system? How will I feel about getting vaccinated?

So, I’ll describe my experience.

Simon-with-cane

As some of you may know, I’m a Senior Rehabilitation Officer for Henshaws, and I’ve been out working face-to-face with people (when feasible) for some months now, ensuring I was wearing my PPE, and this has pretty much been the situation from the end of the first lockdown last year. I’ve followed the vaccine development and roll-out with great interest (too much at times, I think).

COVID vaccine

Booking the vaccine appointment

My invitation to book an appointment for the vaccine came through an organisational channel via email. Just to note, my parents received their invitation by post, in Large Print with 17 different languages attached, online booking information, and a phone number to call – if all else fails, it also included a default of a call back if they didn’t respond!

I booked my appointment on my iPad – it worked with Voice Over and I had all the details I needed to hand. I received a confirmation email as I had filled in the form online (I assume you get a phone confirmation and appointment if you book by phone). I received an email reminding me of my appointment on the day and a text to remind me too – I wasn’t going to forget either way!

Vaccine day!

On the day of my appointment, we arrived at the vaccination centre. I had been given verbal instructions from a colleague of where to go, but a map and picture had also been supplied with the booking email, plus the actual building name. I had my PA with me, but I followed the instructions I had been given and we found the building.

GM vaccine centre

Arriving for the vaccine

I had my long cane with me as usual, and with my mask on I entered the building. The greeter on the door welcomed me, noted my cane and asked would I need help filling in the paperwork – I advised that my PA would do it for me, or if this was not possible it would have been done for me!

The greeter advised another member of the team that I had low vision; he then took me to the booking-in room, told the member of staff who was doing the booking-in of my sight loss, and asked if I was OK. The lady booking me in did all my paperwork, and gave me a blue card for the vaccinator to fill in. I was then shown to the queue.

Queuing for the vaccine

The queue is a system of chairs, positioned back-to-back in a long corridor. When someone goes into the next room, you all move up one chair in the queue – I was helped to find the next chair every time.

When I got to the end of the queue, the nurse came to get me as she knew I had sight loss and asked if I needed guiding – I opted to track and follow instead. She made me aware of the seat, telling me her name and using mine too at all times.  She read the form out to me, checking the answers had been entered correctly and that I had signed it. I was then told I would need to wait for 15 minutes after the injection, so she explained that she would tell me the time I had the injection, and if needed she would also tell me when my 15 minutes were up.

Receiving the vaccine

Sleeve up, done and dusted, coat back on, and the nurse even checked I’d not dropped anything. I was accompanied to a chair and told to raise my hand or make it known if I felt unwell, but that she’d keep an eye on me.

My 15 minutes were up and I was shown out of the door. No issues, great service, well trained staff who made my experience easy, and not at all a problem with sight loss.

vaccination-centre-sign

Advice for people with sight loss about the vaccine

The speed this vaccine programme has been set up is incredible – yes there will be glitches, and yes maybe not everything will be accessible all of the time, but I was prepared to rough it for once (though I didn’t need to!)

As for the route to the vaccine centre, I was only going to be travelling twice, so it was not worth me learning it to perfection.

My advice for people living with sight loss on the day of your vaccine:

  • Take your cane (if you have one).
  • Let people know you have sight loss.
  • Accept the help that is offered by staff at the vaccine centre.
  • Ask questions if you are unsure about any part of the process on the day.

If you, or someone you know, needs some advice about attending a vaccine clinic if you are visually impaired, please give us a call on 0300 222 5555 or check on the NHS website here.

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Sarah
Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.