With concerns that the health service may become over-run in the next few months if effectiveness of vaccines begin to wane, the government has followed advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and is offering a booster dose of the covid vaccine to those living in elderly residential care homes, adults aged 50 years or over, frontline health and social care workers, 16 to 49 year olds with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, adult carers and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
Covid boosters began being handed out this morning at the Meres Leisure Centre in Grantham for patients served by Sleaford and Grantham area GPs and sites around the county will be following suit in the coming days.
All eligible people will get a Pfizer vaccination, irrespective of whether you have previously had Pfizer or AstraZeneca. The booster vaccination should be given at least six months after your second dose, with the optimum window being between six and nine months - your GP surgery will contact you when it is time to book an appointment.
Darren Altus, Operations Director at K2 Healthcare, which represents the network of 16 GP practices in Sleaford and Grantham area which has been managing the vaccination centre, said they are poised to reach a milestone of 180,000 first and second jabs in the area, but now it was back to the start, welcoming some old, familiar faces from the first two visits.
He said: “We will be getting invitations out as quickly as we can.”
Richard Toby, 82, from Sleaford as among the first to receive the booster and said he is all for it.
“If it keeps me safe and everybody else, why not?
“I cannot understand why people don’t want it done. I think people are selfish if they don’t, thinking only about themselves and not the rest of us.
“I am in the vulnerable category and have to be extra careful, so I feel safer about going in shops now,” he said. “In the early days I was worried about my vulnerability and the amount of people passing away. Fortunately I live in a rural area where the infection rate was lower.”
With the programme now extending into a third cycle of vaccinations, Darren added: “We have known it was going to be a long campaign and have been building our resources and our team, trying to get in a position where staff are working together as a team, balancing it so we can go about our normal business too. We are also still getting lots of volunteers to pick up the burden.”
As things get up and running he said the pop-up weekend vaccination clinics at Sleaford area surgeries will return to help those that really struggle to travel to Grantham.
These will be balanced alongside the flu jab campaign which will get underway once transport delivery problems are overcome. This may mean people will have to make a return trip to get the other jab.
The Grantham vaccination centre is expecting to deliver 6,500 jabs a week, by a team of 25 staff and volunteers per session - three sessions a day.
Darren said: “We are hoping to get through all the boosters before Christmas, but there will still be the offer open to those who have not had their first or second jab yet too. Just book in.
“The important message is ‘come when you are called’. We will do the rest..”
Commenting on the last nine months, Darren said: “It has been hard work but a pleasure to have met so many people who have helped us out and we have got to know staff who we otherwise would not have done and made some good friends.
“I’m really keen that there will be a legacy of worknig with volunteers. There is so much opportunity for them to do something new, we cannot lose that.”
Booster vaccination will not be available on a walk-in basis and patients must have a confirmed appointment before attending vaccination centres to manage the logistics, vaccine supply and capacity at each centre.
They will continue to offer first and second doses on a walk-in basis or by appointment.