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Covid-19 vaccination - what happens?

5 suggestions for a smooth Covid-19 vaccination process:

CHECK location and parking arrangements/ bus times etc

TAKE your NHS number and your vaccination reference number with you

ARRIVE on time, no more than 10-15 minutes early

WEAR something that is easy to bare your upper arm in

SMILE and thank the volunteers and medical staff working to keep us safe

For some, having a vaccination may be a stressful event – perhaps you have a fear of needles, are concerned about going somewhere unfamiliar, worried because you don’t know what will happen. I hope that the story of our trip to Cambridge will help, along with a few tips on reducing stress levels through your yoga.


When we are worried or anxious, our breathing pattern is disrupted and we often breathe shallowly and in the upper chest. To counteract this ‘fight or flight’ stress breath, lay your hands on your belly and encourage a sense of breathing into the belly. Start counting how long it takes you to breathe in, and how long it takes you to breathe out. Gradually extend the length of exhale so that it is longer than the inhale. This is said to trigger an effect in the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and relaxing the body. As with any Pranayama (breathing practice), if at any point you feel uncomfortable simply return to your unregulated breathing.


When we are anxious, we tend to tighten our muscles and introduce further tension into the body. Try using the tense/release method to dissipate this tension. Starting at the feet, consciously tighten an area of the body, and then as you exhale release the tension. For example, if you are sitting down, pull both feet up toward you, hold, then allow them to drop back down toward the floor. Continue this tensing and releasing throughout the whole body. This allows you to notice where tension is being held, and to actively release it, and is often used as a prelude to the yoga practice of Relaxation.


Bring to mind a pleasant experience that you have had – a walk in nature, a swim in the sea, looking at a beautiful vista – and allow yourself to fully remember how happy that made you feel. Anchor that feeling within. By consciously choosing a positive experience to engage with, you can actively change your emotional state. In Dru Yoga we use this form of visioning in conjunction with positive affirmations (positive statements) as powerful mood enhancers.

A Trip to Cambridge:

My partner and I are ready to book our vaccinations. Booking on the NHS website is easy and straightforward, using our NHS numbers as a gateway into the process. At this point you can also indicate whether you have any special requirements e.g access to hearing loop if you are hard of hearing.

Entering our postcode brings up a list of places offering vaccination, starting with those closest to our home. We select Cambridge, nearly 40 miles away but one of the closest locations offered, despite the fact that there is a vaccination centre less than a mile up the road from our house. Local vaccination centres must be fully booked. Our appointments are on different days, and at different locations within Cambridge. Inconvenient, but Cambridge is a beautiful city so we don’t mind.

Second vaccinations have to be booked at the same time, and my partner can choose to go back to the same place. However, for my second vaccination I am offered a location just two miles from home, which is great. Once selected and confirmed, we each receive a text from NHS Booking with dates, times and reference numbers.

Superdrug (the beauty products and pharmacy store) in the centre of Cambridge is the location for my partner’s vaccination. He is checked in by a volunteer standing at the entry to the store, then directed to a waiting area at the back of the unit. Vaccinations take place in small consulting rooms, after being asked a number of health questions relating to allergies etc. The vaccination itself is over quickly, an injection high in the upper arm, just a sharp scratch.

I wander around the centre of a deserted Cambridge while waiting for my partner to finish. Plenty of cafes are offering takeaway service, and I sip a coffee as I go window shopping, looking at the arty crafty shops that abound. It’s the first time that I’ve been into a city centre for a long while, and I’m making the most of it.

The Superdrug process takes about 35 minutes, including a 15minute ‘sit-down’ after the injection has been given, just as a precaution against side effects. It’s quick, efficient and painless.

Three days later and we are back in Cambridge, this time to the Grafton Centre, an indoor shopping centre with multi-storey car parks surrounding it. I spend half an hour the evening before trying to find information about which entrance to use for the Mass Vaccination Centre, and which car park - rather frustrating.

We arrive outside the Grafton Centre, no signage to indicate where to go, but eventually find the East car park that we are looking for. Once parked, there is lots of signage inside the car park directing people to the vaccination centre, a re-purposed empty shop unit.

From the moment that we enter the shopping centre, the process is once more smooth and efficient. A security guard checks that you are not too early – any more than ten minutes early and you are asked to wait in your car – and directs you down the escalator to the booking-in volunteers, who ask for the booking reference that is on the text received from the NHS.

My Sunday lunchtime appointment means that the whole centre is very quiet, and I only wait a few minutes before being called forward. The Mass Vaccination Centre is located in shop unit 40, next to H&M. It all feels very surreal, as the shops are closed and shuttered, but the Italian open-air café in the light and airy central atrium is open for business and fully staffed. Volunteers and NHS workers sit in the cordoned-off area behind the café, eating lunch or sipping coffee.

I am directed to a short row of plastic chairs, and sit down. After just a few minutes I am called forward and sit down opposite a kindly individual. She introduces herself. “I am Agnes*”. Asked for my NHS number, I have to admit that I have no idea. I had just assumed that all the information required would be on the text from the NHS, but this is not the case. However, it’s an easy matter for Agnes to find my NHS number, once I have given her my address.

A stream of questions then follows, concerning allergies etc. At times I find it difficult to hear Agnes, because we are in a big open space with just temporary screens around the different sections, and the ambient noise level is quite high. And, of course, we are all wearing masks. (Noise was not an issue for my partner, as in Superdrug he was taken into a small consulting room for his questions and the vaccination procedure). If you have ticked that you have special requirements, another person may be able to attend with you, to help out.

Once the questions have all been answered satisfactorily, I am directed to sit on another row of chairs, waiting to be called forward for my vaccination. Again, it is only a few minutes before I am called forward. Linda* explains the procedure to me, a “sharp scratch”, and gives me a credit card sized information card listing my vaccination type and date. A leaflet with information about possible side effects is also given to me.

I shrug off my coat and cardigan, expose my arm and look away. Linda takes only a few seconds to administer the vaccination, and I feel very little, just the “sharp scratch”. As I will not be driving, I am allowed to leave immediately. The whole process has taken less than 20 minutes.

Once I am outside the unit, I phone my partner (he’s been sitting in the car, reading) and he comes down the escalator to meet me. We choose a rather decadent chocolate-filled croissant and coffee to take away with us, as we are not allowed to sit down within the centre. I also avail myself of the toilet facilities.

We drive to Jesus Green, one of the open green spaces, and consume our treat sitting by the river. The sun shines on us, and we enjoy a rare moment of bustle, as the people of Cambridge make the most of the day. Fishing, paddle-boarding, exercising, cycling, walking the dog – Cambridge on a sunny Sunday afternoon, how wonderful!

*names have been changed



Michelle Helstrip

DRUVA Founder

NHS information about the vaccination programme


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