Virgin Atlantic says it will be offering its employees to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and St John’s Ambulance to help in the mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines over the coming months. The United Kingdom became the first country in the world to start vaccinating its citizens using an officially approved vaccine and the government hopes to have immunised its entire adult population by the autumn of 2021.
In order to achieve this feat, government ministers are aiming to ramp up the vaccination rate to more than two million people every single week. Furloughed airline workers with First Aid skills have been eyed up by NHS bosses to bolster the vaccination workforce in what is set to be the largest inoculation drive ever witnessed.
“We are very grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing in extremely challenging circumstances,” explained Virgin’s chief customer and operating officer Corneel Koster on Tuesday as the airline set out how it planned to help the NHS meet its vaccination targets.
“The mass vaccination programme is the only solution to beating this pandemic and we’re committed to help in any way we can, to support gearing up vaccinations as fast as possible,” Koster continued.
Employees would be temporarily employed by the NHS and St John’s Ambulance in a combination of paid and voluntary roles including as vaccinators Koster explained.
“Our people undergo rigorous training programmes in their roles which include medical, safety and customer service training and the NHS recognises the value and experience they will bring to this crucial mass vaccination programme.”
Cabin crew are currently being fast tracked to fill vaccinator roles with specialist training provided by the NHS before any jabs are given to the general public. Virgin Atlantic said some cabin crew could be deployed within days as mass vaccination centres are hurriedly set up across the UK.
So far, the UK has administered more COVID-19 vaccines than any other country in Europe and the government wants to emulate the success of Israel which is leading the race to inoculate its population. Both countries are battling deadly surges in COVID-19 infections that have concentrated the minds of their respective governments.
The pandemic has decimated Virgin Atlantic’s business, leading the airline to lay-off at least 4,300 workers and furlough hundreds more. The airline has long sought to ease travel restrictions through mass pre-departure testing but is now setting its hopes on mass vaccination as the best way out of the crisis.
Along with offering employees to aid in the vaccination effort, Virgin has also encouraged workers to volunteer at field hospitals and for the St John’s Ambulance service. Special cargo flights operated by Virgin Atlantic have transported over 1,500 tonnes of essential medical supplies including respirators and face masks.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.