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Troops surge to support the UK-wide booster programme

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the vaccine booster programme on Sunday evening, more than 850 personnel, from across the three services, have deployed or been made available to support the NHS, the Department of Health and Social Care, Scottish Government and Welsh Government.

As announced previously, personnel from across the three services are working in support of NHS colleagues, delivering vaccine boosters to record numbers of the UK population – Read about it here.

The Army’s own troops are proud to be supporting the NHS and helping to keep people safe, and they urge all people needing a booster to come to one of the vaccine centres and get boosted.

This task is really important to me because I want to help get the vaccine out to people quicker, to make everyone safer especially for Christmas." Private Madison Oliver

As the programme rolls out across the UK this week and next, we’ve spoken to some of those taking part.

Supporting the NHS in Manchester

Colonel Darren Doherty, Commander of Army Headquarters North West, visiting troops at Manchester Town Hall, said: “The team here is one of seven we currently have throughout the region supporting the NHS in delivering the vaccination programme.

“Some of those are in walk-in vaccination centres, others are going out to housebound people and the homeless, supplementing the huge effort that is going on.

“We’re well used to working in support of the NHS and providing people where they are needed. On the back of the Prime Minister’s announcement, we have planning teams working out how best to deliver the booster programme.”

Supporting the NHS in Taunton

Captain Victoria Gordon, a Royal Army Medical Corps Physio at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Taunton, said: “It’s a privilege, it’s exciting to be part of the national effort. I’ve worked in the NHS before. They do a fantastic job and it’s wonderful to be supporting them.

“As part of the military you expect to be part of a mass effort. This is very unusual for me. The day job is working with young marine recruits, 16 or 17 through to their early 20s and hands-on physio, exercises in the gym.”

She underwent online training as well as face-to-face instruction in Bristol to learn how to administer the vaccine safely and effectively. “We’ll be here as long as we’re needed,” said Captain Victoria. “We’re here, we’re ready. Please make sure you get yourself booked in and get down here for your vaccination.”

Supporting the NHS in Bristol

Private Olivia Harper from Taunton serving with 1 Medical Regiment in Tidworth, said: “I’ve been giving out booster vaccinations to the population of Bristol and they have all been very grateful. We have had a lot of praise and thanks and even when there have been big queues, everyone has been really patient and happy to wait because they know the importance of the vaccination.

“Earlier this year I was deployed to the North Norwich University Hospital where I was assisting in the Covid positive dementia and stroke wards. I had to deal with the patients and their families when there was no visiting allowed, it was very hard on everyone. This is a lot more positive environment as people want to get their boosters and they have been so grateful.”

Private Madison Oliver from Basingstoke, Hampshire serving with 1 Medical Regiment in Tidworth, said: “This task is really important to me because I want to help get the vaccine out to people quicker, to make everyone safer especially for Christmas. I also think it is really import to support our NHS colleagues and by us being here it allows more people to book their boosters.

“This is my fourth deployment during the pandemic, I have been a vaccinator three times and also worked on a ward in a hospital. One of the stand-out moments for me has been when I was a vaccinator in London, I actually vaccinated a survivor from the Holocaust – that was amazing, I’ll never forget it.”  

Supporting NHS Scotland

An additional 100 personnel deployed earlier this week to accelerate the vaccine rollout in Scotland amid a wave of Omicron infections, bringing the total number of personnel supporting this effort to 221.

One hundred and twenty one personnel have been supporting the vaccine programme across Scotland since early October, and the boosted cohort of personnel are expected to be on task until the end of February 2022.

Alongside supporting the accelerated vaccine programme, 114 Armed Forces personnel are driving ambulances in support of the Scottish Ambulance service. As of today, this support will be extended until the end of March, with 96 personnel remaining on task to provide this life saving service.

Brigadier Ben Wrench, Commander Joint Military Command Scotland said: “Whether it be responding to the impacts of storms or national health crises, the members of our Armed Forces are always prepared to deploy at short notice to support the nation and our communities. 

“I commend the dedication of all those serving and supporting this effort, many of whom will find themselves away from their families and loved ones this Christmas and Hogmanay.”

There are now 398 personnel available to support on Op Rescript tasks in Scotland - the name given to Defence’s work to support the pandemic response across the UK. This includes around 60 personnel supporting NHS Lanarkshire hospitals.

Supporting the NHS in Wales

Ninety-eight Armed Forces personnel have been made available to support the programme in Wales, working to support the Department of Health and Welsh Government to accelerate the vaccine rollout.

Troops will make up 14 teams of vaccinators providing surge support to increase capacity. Those deploying are a mixture of health care professionals and general duties personnel who will be working in support of NHS Wales staff and volunteers, administering vaccines and providing planning expertise.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We are now supporting this national priority Covid-19 vaccination programme in Wales, Scotland and England.

“Our Armed Forces are supporting our world class health services to accelerate the vaccine rollout and provide essential protection for people and communities. I urge anyone eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine.”