There are many skills and much expertise needed to keep a COVID-19 vaccination clinic running to help the country speed through the booster jab roll-out.
But among the professionals who make up the essential workforce behind this mammoth project are individual stories that highlight the personal toll of the pandemic.
Stories like that of Annabel Welson, part of the security team at the vaccination clinic in St John’s shopping centre in Preston, Lancashire.
As I arrive at the clinic she is directing members of the public who have turned up for their jab. At a glance, you would never know the ordeal she suffered last year after catching COVID – nor the physical struggles she is still facing.
Annabel is suffering from Long COVID and I see how out of breath she becomes from even simple tasks, such as climbing a flight of stairs. But she has made a remarkable recovery.
Last year, Annabel caught the virus before vaccines were available. She is young and, apart from suffering from asthma as a child, she doesn’t have any underlying health conditions.
When her oxygen levels dropped dangerously low she was taken to hospital – and within hours, doctors had placed her in an induced coma.
COVID-19: What are the options for further coronavirus restrictions Boris Johnson is said to have been presented with?
COVID-19: Boris Johnson ‘reserves possibility’ of further restrictions and says govt is following the data ‘hour by hour’
COVID-19: 8,044 new Omicron COVID cases reported – a third down on yesterday
“My friends and family had been told that I wasn’t going to pull through,” she says.
But four weeks later she was out of a coma, and two weeks after that she left intensive care – despite contracting pneumonia and sepsis. Annabel also found out that her mother caught COVID and died while she was in hospital.
Her ordeal sounds utterly harrowing but she says she feels incredibly lucky to still be alive. She is a fighter.
“It took me six months to even be able to leave the house,” she says. “I had to learn how to walk again, how to talk again. I had no energy.”
After having her tracheostomy removed, Annabel had to make a slow transition from liquids, to soft food, until eventually she could manage hard food again.
“I’ve got Long COVID now, so I have a lot of brain fog. Sometimes my concentration and my retention aren’t the same. It’s getting a lot better, but I came out of hospital a year ago and it’s taken that long for me to get to where I am now.”
When you hear what she has been through, it is almost unbelievable that she is now working at this vaccination clinic.
They have expanded their opening hours to cope with the booster drive, providing jabs seven days a week, and Annabel is a vital part of that work.
“It’s been amazing because every day you feel like you’re giving something back and you’re helping people and seeing how grateful they are that they’re getting vaccinated,” she said. “It’s hard, it’s long days, but it’s definitely worth it.”
As well as continuing her recovery, Annabel’s focus now will be on a masters degree in counterterrorism studies. She hopes to one day be an expert and teach the subject herself.
In the meantime, she has one simple message to others: “Get vaccinated. Just get it done.”