MEET Dr Sond, one of the first dentists in the country to become a Covid vaccinator right here in York.

The family of Dr Japkirat Singh Sond were delighted when he became a doctor and qualified as a dentist. But they were even more impressed when he became one of the first dentists in the country to be a Covid vaccinator at the York Askham Bar Vaccination Centre.

In October 2020, 28 Foundation Dentists were appointed as vaccinators at the York Askham Bar Vaccination Centre. The programme was the first to go live in Yorkshire and the Humber. And since January, the dentists began supporting the Covid vaccination programme.

Dr Sond was one of them. He was originally working as a flu vaccinator at the site when it was transformed into a Covid Vaccination Centre in December 2020.

“I was more than happy to help and luckily I was offered a shift at one of the first vaccination clinics at the site on 22nd December. I was very excited to be involved.

“I first started as an administrator and after the relevant training, I began offering and delivering the vaccine to the thousands of people who come every day.

“There is a large team ranging from health care professionals such as GPs, pharmacists, nurses and dentists to the admin and security staff on site. All contributing to the success of efficient and effective service. More recently we have seen the addition of the personnel from the Army, Fire Service and St John Ambulance service. I’ve got to know the team very well – There is a great team ethic, and everyone is very friendly. It’s great to see how people from fields similar and dissimilar have united.”

Dr Sond, who studied dentistry for five years at Plymouth University, currently works as a dentist at Beech House Dental Practice in Ripon. He lives in Leeds and does the 40 min commute four days a week, with the fifth day travelling to the York Vaccination Site.

“In my final year of university, I didn’t expect that a year later I would be both a dentist and a vaccinator in my foundation dental year- but it’s been easy to adapt to. As health care professionals, we have a duty of care to patients. As a foundation dentist, my expected role would be carrying out my own clinics and treating patient with dental problems. The pandemic, however, has broadened my responsibilities. I have been able to go above and beyond my usual role and help to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations. I feel very privileged to be able to serve the wider community, work with an amazing diverse team of health care professionals and do my part in vaccinating as many people as we can against this virus.” He said

Dr Sond is working alongside his fellow foundation dentists, so he does get to see them face to face each week. “We would normally have more interaction and socialise outside of work, but our face to face is now working at the vaccination centre. At least we get to discuss about dentistry during our breaks.”

His parents take a keen interest in what he’s doing, says Dr Sond. “They’re always asking how many vaccinations have you done?” I’ve managed around 100 in a shift and have been told I’m a pretty good vaccinator by patients and colleagues. Its always nice to hear good feedback.”

His family are very proud of his achievements which sit well with his Sikh beliefs.

“I’m from a Sikh family and we follow the seva ethos which is all about being forgiving and providing a selfless service. Just knowing that what I’m doing is following my faith pleases me and makes my family really proud.

“Everyone who comes for their vaccine is pleased to be there. You can see the satisfaction that people get when they have their jab and it’s great to be part of that.”

Prof Mike Holmes, York Vaccination Centre clinical lead and chair of Nimbuscare, said: “It’s been a pleasure to work alongside our team of foundation year dentists in both our Flu and Covid vaccination services.

“They have adapted to the work really well and have showed a real patient centred approach to their work.

“I am proud that they are part of our team and am looking forward to our continued relationship with them.

“I’ve worked with Japkirat many times and he is so professional. Over and above his clinical skills he is so good with his patients, putting them at ease as they go through, what is for some, an emotional experience.”

Stefan Serban, specialist registrar in Dental Pubic Health Public Health England (North East and Yorkshire region) said: “The pandemic proved a unique opportunity for the dental workforce to support the delivery of these important immunisation programmes. Innovative and collaborative work between lots of key partners meant we had a plan to use the best use of NHS resources, whilst supporting the training of our dental graduates. Using our dental graduates in this way has ultimately helped protect people against flu and Covid and is good news for local people.

Sally Eapen Simon, Screening and Immunisation Lead, PHE, said: “It is only through strong partnership working across the NHS that this innovative workforce initiative has been so successful. We are hugely appreciative of the leadership support of the Humber Coast and Vale ICS Flu Board, Jason Atkinson, Postgraduate Associate Postgraduate Dental Dean, HEE and the team at Nimbuscare Ltd.

“I am so proud of my dental colleagues who have stepped up to help this national collective effort to protect public health in Humber Coast and Vale, during this pandemic. University of Leeds, with funding support from the Yorkshire and the Humber Academic Health Science Network, are leading an evaluation of programme and this will be published in late Spring 2021.”