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Local student Emma, who has learning disabilities, urges Sefton residents to ‘be brave’ and get vaccinated

Sefton performing arts student, Emma James-Jenkinson and her mum
Sefton performing arts student, Emma James-Jenkinson and her mum

It’s World Immunisation Week and Emma James-Jenkinson, a performing arts student from Sefton, is sharing her COVID-19 vaccination story

She’s sharing her story because she hopes it will inspire others who are anxious or scared about getting their jab to ‘be brave’.

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

Extra mile

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.

After overhearing Emma reassuring and motivating  herself to ‘be brave’ even though the jab might ‘hurt a little bit’, Emma’s mum Lynn contacted North Park Health Centre practice manager Cathy Riley.

Cathy 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.

Happy and safe

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.”

Human touch

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.”

Strength and bravery

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.”

World Immunisation Week , which runs from Saturday 24th to Friday 30th April, is led by the World Health Organisation. It aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

Find out how to book your own COVID-19 vaccination appointment, when you are eligible. 

Find out more about vaccinations in Sefton.