First healthcare worker in Oldham to receive Covid-19 vaccine targets frontline return

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

AN Oldham nurse who was the first person in the local NHS to get the Covid-19 vaccine hopes it will allow her to return to the frontline after months of shielding.

Irene Shepherd, a practice nurse at Hopwood House Practice on Lees Road for five years, received her jab on December 14.

Irene Shepherd was the first member of health and care staff in the borough to receive the Covid-19 vaccine

She qualified as a nurse in 1991 and has spent her entire career working in the NHS, and prior to her current practice she worked at Leesbrook Surgery on Mellor Street.

However Irene, who lives in Royton with her husband, has nephrotic syndrome which affects her kidneys.

She was classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ and began shielding from March 16, which kept her off the frontline to protect her from becoming seriously ill from the virus.

But Irene hopes that following her second dose of the vaccine she will be able to get back to treating patients face-to-face after eight months.

“I have never allowed my condition to stop me doing anything in life and work before,” she said.

“Thankfully I have had so much support from the GP practice that I have been able to carry on working from home.

“It’s been a challenging time. We are just so thankful that I got the opportunity to get the vaccine.

“I am waiting to speak to my renal consultant and I believe that my immunity will be there within a couple of weeks after my second dose and I am then hoping to return into an environment where it can be face-to-face safely.”

She received the vaccine at Greenbank Medical Practice – Oldham’s inaugural vaccination centre – and was the first member of health and care staff in the borough to get the jab.

“To be able to go back to the workplace – the only way that was going to happen was to get the Covid vaccine,” Irene added.

“I love meeting people, I have got a really strong network in the surgery and not seeing my colleagues has been really difficult. I miss patients and I miss chatting to them.

“I am absolutely, incredibly excited about getting back into the workplace.”

Irene, who turned 50 during lockdown, said the vaccine was painless and she has experienced no adverse effects.

“I can’t wait to get back to the frontline which is my passion – I also want to be a Covid vaccinator myself,” she added.

“I am an advocate for immunisation, we have got to have confidence in the scientists and the studies that have been done.”

Members of the public in Oldham began receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 15 as the first of 800,000 doses were delivered across the country.

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