St. John Ambulance volunteers will remain on-site at Glacier Gardens until all first and second doses are delivered. Photo supplied

St. John Ambulance volunteers will remain on-site at Glacier Gardens until all first and second doses are delivered. Photo supplied

Medical first responders volunteer at Comox vaccine clinic

St. John Ambulance Medical First Responder (MFR) volunteers are providing support and first aid at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Comox.

The charity’s volunteers are giving their time seven days a week at the Glacier Gardens Arena clinic in Comox. They plan to remain until all first and second doses are delivered. All volunteers on-site are from the Comox Valley, but the division is hoping to eventually get support from St. John Ambulance volunteers across the Island and throughout B.C.

Each day they put in up to five hours to provide after-care to those receiving the vaccine. This includes monitoring patients for 15 minutes, and providing first aid if needed for adverse reactions, or if any injuries or medical emergencies occur.

Brian Chow, a medical first responder for the Comox Valley division of St. John Ambulance for over six years, is one of the volunteers giving time at the clinic.

“Our role is to provide first aid support to the workers, fellow volunteers, and members of the public who are getting their vaccinations. So far, it has been a great team effort with Island Health, and the community has seemed very appreciative to see our bright uniforms present,” said Chow.

So far, Chow hasn’t needed to treat any serious reactions or first aid emergencies, only cases of nerves and fainting spells.

“The closest I had was to support two members of the public who knew that they had a tendency to faint when receiving vaccines. In that situation I just had to lie them down on a chair, monitor their progress, then escort them out of the arena.”

Martin Wong, volunteer and Vancouver Island area commissioner for St. John Ambulance, has been the lead in organizing and supporting the volunteer efforts at the clinic.

“The staff in the clinic appreciate the extra hands-on deck for medical support, as normally there would only be a non-medical trained paid staff or volunteer watching the patients,” Wong said. “With our volunteer’s trained medical eyes, they know when a patient is not doing well early on, and can get them down on the ground or on a stretcher before they slump over and injure themselves.”

Wong said incidents reported so far are lightheadedness and fainting. Outside of this, the volunteers are there to also interact and keep the patients calm.

“Being able to talk to our volunteers helps patients pass the time they have to stay post-injection, and the patient’s anxiety level is decreased knowing that there is someone monitoring them. The majority of residents thank our volunteers for being there as they head out,” said Wong.

As more vaccines become available and more clinics are opened, St. John Ambulance remains committed to providing support along the way to communities in the Comox Valley and the rest of Vancouver Island until the whole vaccination process and phases are complete.

Support their MFR volunteers at supportsja.ca/medicalfirstresponders

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