Vaccine rollout is like a war – big-hearted Brits down tools and walk on water, says Jabs Army chief Catherine Johnstone

SUN readers are amazing – they walk on water!

Next week it will be one year since 91-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in Britain to be given the Covid jab.

That was to be the start of the biggest vaccination rollout in history.

To make sure everybody in the country received a jab, the Royal Voluntary Service was asked to find 50,000 volunteers to help out.

So we turned to The Sun for help and didn’t know what to expect.

But within weeks the Jabs Army had passed the 50,000 target and eventually nearly 70,000 of you stepped up.

The gift of your time really does make a difference.

Sun readers have already given up 1.1million hours to volunteer at jab centres.

But now, in the country’s latest hour of need, we need you again.

Omicron, the new Covid variant, is a massive bump in the road that we could all have done without.

But the reality is that it is here and we need to respond appropriately and quickly, moving this vaccination programme forward efficiently and at a pace so that we will have a positive Christmas and get into 2022 so that everyone who wants a booster jab can have one.

So we are appealing for 25,000 readers to give their time as steward volunteers at vaccine centres as part of the effort to make sure every adult has the booster jab by the end of January.

And we may need many more to step up as the future unfolds.

Click here to join The Sun's Jabs Army

So far Sun readers have completed more than 196,000 shifts of between three and six hours.

It would be brilliant if you can help us reach 200,000 shifts in the very near future.

When we launched the Jabs Army in January, people thought that stewards would be a “nice thing” to have at centres.

But we have since discovered how volunteer stewards are absolutely essential to the effective running of vaccine sites — small, medium or large.

Every time you take somebody away from putting the jab in someone’s arm to do an administrative task, such as sorting the car park or to sit alongside somebody having a bit of a panic attack because they have needle phobia, you slow down the process.

Nearly 12 months on, the running of today’s vaccine centres is now much more complicated.

Most centres have multiple activities going on, with pre-booked vaccinations running along with walk-in clinics.

So you’ve got the booked appointments in one queue and the walk-ins in another, with both queues moving at different speeds.

Added to the mix you have people who are coming for their first or second jab, as well as people having their booster.

Logistically it is quite a feat to get all of those moving parts working together.


And Jabs Army stewards have proven to be essential to keeping people and the systems together.

With my 79-year-old mother Mavis Clemson, we do shifts together at Banbury Cross Health Centre in Oxfordshire.

My mum, who was a volunteer Gamesmaker at the London Olympics, particularly likes doing the queue management shift because she gets to speak to all of the people waiting.

Because I’m a trained nurse, I like to volunteer in the recovery area, where people go if they feel unwell.

I never mention that I’m the Chief Exec of RVS. Why would I?

I don’t need to because I’m volunteering, like everyone else.

So many people have wanted to do their bit because there isn’t anybody who has not been affected in our world at the moment by this horrible Covid virus.

It’s a bit like when you have a war, where everybody downs tools and says ‘what do I need to do? Where is the need the greatest?’

Last year, 12.4million people stepped forward to volunteer across the UK and 4.6million of them were volunteering for the first time ever.

And 3.8million of those have indicated that they want to continue volunteering.

It would take decades to get that level of impetus behind people stepping forward to volunteer and we need to harness this.


Research shows that volunteering is good for your heart and your soul. It is a social prescription for your physical and mental wellbeing.

But the pace at which we need to move is now critical, because the more people we can get vaccinated and the quicker we can get it done, the likelihood is that we can stop people getting unnecessarily unwell and ending up in hospital.

The good news is that almost 5,000 more Sun readers have signed up since Monday.

Some people who have stayed with us and done regular shifts in their local centres throughout the Covid vaccination programme continue.

We are encouraging anyone who has stepped back because they thought they were not needed to log back into their app as we’ve been working with local teams to pinpoint need to increase capacity and shifts are now available in many areas.

I am privileged and humbled by the response of The Sun readers to stepping forward once again as targets for how many people need to be vaccinated are ambitious.

Vaccinations and boosters are unlikely to stop at the end of January and at the moment we don’t what’s going to happen with this new variant.

Therefore continuing to build the vax jabs army with the help of Sun readers so that it stands proud and ready to deal with whatever is down the line is a once in a lifetime opportunity — and I will certainly be continuing to volunteer myself alongside my mum.

Join The Sun’s Jabs Army

IF you have never volunteered before, sign up at nhsvolunteer or use this QR code

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