Would you trust a flight attendant to administer your Covid-19 vaccine?
April 21, 2021
The UK might be one of the countries where more Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to date, but little is said about how this high-speed pace has been achieved.
In case you didn’t know, the staff delivering your Covid-19 vaccine may or may not be a medical professional. A few weeks ago, the NHS put in place the vaccination programme workforce, a recruitment plan which allowed workers without medical experience to become vaccinators.
Airlines rapidly took this opportunity to step up, with cabin crew being the largest group of non-medical professionals in the programme. EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic crew were fast-tracked to be trained, and other airlines like British Airways fervently encouraged their staff to join forces with the NHS. And this has an added value.
The aviation industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the UK alone due to the drop in demand for passenger air transport. Therefore, not only do aviation workers get to contribute to the nationwide effort to fight the virus, but also the crew that was made redundant last year get an opportunity to retrain into another profession; at least, until they get their wings back. In other words, it might not be a doctor or a nurse who administers your jab, but a non-registered member of staff that has recently received suitable training. But how do people feel about this?
Since the news came out, many have shown concern at the idea of having a flight attendant administering their vaccine. A recent survey shows that 59% of people wouldn’t feel comfortable with non-medical professionals delivering their jab, and 67% said that they would feel much safer with a qualified doctor or nurse.
Either way, will having a flight attendant as a vaccinator make a difference for those who choose to get a jab?
A concerning 47% said that they would actually refuse to get their vaccine if they knew that a former flight attendant was administering it.
Billy Eagle, Virgin Atlantic cabin crew and now NHS worker, was shocked by some people’s fears: “We already have that medical background. We are not just first aiders; our training is a lot more advanced than basic first aid. Becoming vaccinators is just learning one additional skill, really.” Billy explained that “if the people that are worried about cabin crew vaccinating them knew what the training was like and what they are experienced in, that would alleviate those worries.”
“Our medical training is very advanced. I wish the public knew what it is like.”—Billy explained.
From the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Katherine Kaczynska explained that aviation workers naturally fit into this role, and people should have nothing to fear. “The main role of cabin crew is health and safety of the passengers, and there is a large element of that in their training, in case a passenger gets ill, for example. It is a natural fit for cabin crew, but we are also in the middle of a crisis and it’s all hands-on deck,” said Katherine.
However, former crew member and now NHS worker Jordan Stephen Jones said that he expects some people to feel unsure about this, especially the older generation. “It is the kind of attitude you would get from the older demographic. They just see you are a steward or stewardess rather than a trained professional.”
In fact, flight attendants complete intensive safety and medical training that prepares them for any situation that they can potentially face in the sky, which includes performing CPR, delivering adrenaline injections or even handling death on board. Billy explained that “a lot of the medical situations that arise, happen with little or no notice, and cabin crew have to be able to react to that in a professional and safe way.” However, he said that the regular public rarely gets to see that, so they don’t really understand.
Gareth, 31, and Victoria, 37, who took part in the survey, have very different views on the issue, having both recently recovered from Covid-19. “I think in these times with limited resources, I would be ok with someone who wasn’t a full medical professional administering my vaccine, as long as they had been trained up,” said Gareth.
"I wouldn’t be comfortable with non-medical personnel administering the vaccine for me."—Victoria
For Victoria, however, it is not so clear: “I would be much more comfortable with healthcare workers such as doctors or nurses because they are registered, they have a lot of experience, and they can help with any possible reaction.”
Despite some people’s mistrust, tens of thousands of cabin crew have been deployed and are already delivering the vaccine across the UK. The NHS has now paused the recruitment process as they currently have enough non-healthcare vaccinators after an unprecedented number of people joined the programme.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and the recovery of normal life is certainly tied to the vaccine distribution process, which aviation workers are helping to speed up. At the end of the day, we might be thanking the flight attendant who we thought was only capable of pouring our black tea. And it is that small contribution that will enable life as we knew it to return to us.