Supporting the COVID-19 relief effort in the UK

Over the last year, our students and staff have played a vital role in the COVID-19 response, through research, volunteering and community support.
Student volunteering during COVID

Meet Josh, one of our MSc Immunology of Infectious Diseases students based in the UK who helped with the vaccination rollout.

How have you been involved with the COVID-19 response?

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic I contacted some of the hospitals and GP practices in Newcastle to see if they required volunteers. A couple of GP practices had additional work that I was able to help with. Initially I started out by contacting shielding and vulnerable patients. The job involved checking on current medication provisions, food access, as well as mental health and overall wellbeing. The silver lining for me was the social interaction for the first time in months – hearing all the things people were doing to keep themselves entertained during the pandemic.

When the vaccine rollout started they required a number of people able to give the vaccine. I tried to get involved as soon as I could, completing the training at the very start of January. A few weeks later, I had started my first session in a sports hall in North Shields. On top of vaccinating, I also learned the dilutional technique used to make up the vaccine. To date I have been involved in roughly 1000 patient’s vaccines. It has been great to see the gratitude and positivity towards the vaccine programme from patients and staff.

My part has been very small and is just one bit of a huge national effort from people of all backgrounds and ages across the country.

The vaccination centre and patients have highlighted the real-world application that the MSc teaches. 

Has your vaccine rollout volunteering had any influence on your studies?

I think the course made me more confident when it came to the vaccine rollout and interacting with patients receiving the vaccine. I felt comfortable answering queries patients had regarding the vaccine. I feel the vaccination centre and patients have highlighted the real-world application that the MSc teaches.

What skills have you gained from the MSc and how do you think they will help in your future career?

The main skills I feel I have gained are in being able to critique new research and papers, rather than taking the face value conclusions an author gives. I am still unsure of where I eventually want to end up career-wise, however this critical approach coupled with the practical skills I have been shown (and will be developing further on my project) will provide a great foundation for the future.

What have you enjoyed most about your MSc so far? 

The MSc has allowed me to interact with numerous people from all different careers, backgrounds and areas. I think these connections will be one of the most valuable aspects I will take away from my time at LSHTM. My favourite module thus far was the parasitology module – who doesn’t love worms amongst other things?! A well taught module that gave an insight into an area I find particularly fascinating. Hopefully there will be some more interesting advances in parasitic vaccines in the future.

What will you be doing for your summer project?

My summer project is looking at Chagas disease and the host immune system in the transition from acute and chronic phase of infection. More specifically I will be looking at experimental mouse tissue samples to establish what about the colon tissue environment allows the parasite to survive and establish a chronic infection. I am aiming to be in the labs in Keppel Street for this project, and hopefully I can build on the theory I’ve learned throughout the year and develop my practical skills.

Want to find out more about the MSc?

Register for our MSc Immunology of Infectious Diseases Q&A webinar on Wednesday 5 May and get a chance to ask your questions directly to Josh, the Programme Director and our Admissions team.