Local student with learning disabilities urges Sefton residents to ‘be brave’ and get vaccinated

Friday, April 23, 2021

Emma James-Jenkinson, a performing arts student from Sefton, is sharing her COVID-19 vaccination story during World Immunisation Week (24-30 April), in the hope that it will inspire others who are anxious or scared to ‘be brave’ and get their jab.

Emma, 17, who has Down’s syndrome, had severe anxiety about getting her first COVID-19 vaccination and initially refused to go for her jab after receiving a text message inviting her to book an appointment.

Unsure how to help her daughter, Emma’s mum Lynn James-Jenkinson reached out to NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and North Park Health Centre in Bootle, who went the extra mile to help Emma get vaccinated.

Speaking about her experience, Emma said: “I was very scared of having the needle, but getting my vaccine made me feel happy and safe. It meant I could go back to college at Jelli Studios and see all my friends.”

“It’s important for people like me with Down’s syndrome to be brave and get their needle. When I have to go back again, I might feel a little bit scared again, but I will be brave.”

“After I got my vaccine, everyone started clapping and I felt so happy and proud for being brave.”

After overhearing Emma reassuring and motivate herself to ‘be brave’ even though the jab might ‘hurt a little bit’, Lynn reached out to Cathy Riley, practice manager at North Park Health Centre, who offered to see Emma right away and work with her to ensure they found a way to get vaccinated safely and calmly. Cathy even offered to come out to the car park to arrange to give Emma her vaccine without her having to get out of the car.

Despite making it into the practice, Emma felt scared again when she saw the needle, but the practice nurse helped her to overcome her anxiety by letting Emma hold her hand and doing some breathing exercises together to stay calm. They also watched YouTube videos and sang along to one of Emma’s favourite songs, ‘The Schuyler Sisters’, from the hit musical ‘Hamilton’, before administering the vaccine quickly and painlessly, much to everyone’s relief.

Emma’s mum, Lynn, said: “Cathy and the team at North Park Health Centre were so friendly. The ‘human touch’ that they brought to our unique situation really helped us both. We felt like we were really listened to, and I can’t thank them enough.”

“I am happy knowing Emma feels safe to go out again and can get back to being a ‘young person’ and doing the things she enjoys.”

“It’s so important to make sure our young people with learning difficulties get protected from COVID-19, and it can be difficult to know what to do in this situation. I would say to any mum facing the same difficulties as us, to always call your GP or practice manager and ask for their support in making reasonable adjustments to get your family vaccinated. They are there to help.”

Cathy Riley, practice manager at North Park Health Centre said: “The strength and bravery that Emma showed had a real impact on our amazing team, and it brought tears to our eyes when she finally allowed our nurse to administer the vaccine.”

“The strength and bravery Emma showed touched us all. We were so elated that we all cheered and clapped for her and her proud mum.”

“The look on Emma’s face once the vaccination was done will stay with me always – she is proof that if you face your fears, you can conquer anything.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said:  “Emma is an inspiration to others and I would like to thank her and her mum Lyn, on behalf of the NHS, for her bravery and for speaking out about her experience and encouraging others to come forward and get themselves vaccinated."

“The offer to get vaccinated is always available to those in priority cohorts and it was lovely to hear the lengths practice manager Cathy and other NHS staff went to, to welcome Emma and make her feel at ease so she can get the best possible protection against this deadly disease.”

World Immunisation Week (24 – 30 April) is led by the World Health Organisation annually in the last week of April and aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

To find out how to book your own COVID-19 vaccination appointment, when you are eligible, please visit the NHS website: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/