'We don't have the luxury of time' - Suffolk GP on Omicron

Suffolk vaccine booster drive

A Suffolk GP has said the more people that are vaccinated is related to the number of freedoms we can have - Credit: PA/Danielle Booden

A Suffolk GP has warned that failing to get booster jabs to protect against the Omicron variant could result in more restrictions being imposed.

Dr Richard West MBE from the Woolpit Health Centre said: "If we had the luxury of time, we could wait and see, but we won't know what's going on until it's too late."

The GP has encouraged people to get their booster jab as a matter of priority after PM Boris Johnson announced they were speeding up the rollout to cover all over 18s by the end of the year.

He said the effectiveness of the first and second doses starts tailing off somewhere between three and six months after having it. He says this is why, to a certain extent, a spike of cases now is "not a great surprise".

Johnson made his announcement on Sunday, leading to instant concerns about the pressure this may put on GP surgeries and pharmacies who are offering the vaccine.

Dr Richard West is pictured at Woolpit Health Centre. New year's Honours

Dr Richard West will be helping vaccinate thousands at Woolpit Health Centre in the coming weeks - Credit: Phil Morley

Dr West agreed that bringing the deadline forward by a month does add pressure and said: "As a practice we're looking at about 3,000 vaccines that we need to do over the next two to three weeks, which is obviously a big workload for us."

Patients have been warned other appointments may be rescheduled to enable the rollout to happen.

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"We really would appreciate it if you can put things off for the next two to three weeks please do so, because getting these vaccines out is really important for us all," said the GP.

"I'm very sorry, we can't be as flexible as I'd like to be because we've got a big volume to do."

Dr Richard West MBE, organiser, at the mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse

Dr Richard West MBE, was an organiser at a mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse - Credit: Danielle Booden

As well as surgeries, pharmacies, existing vaccine centres and pop ups will all be involved in the booster drive.

The GP continued: "It will spread much more quickly unless we can get on top of it.

"If we don't get on top of it, then we'll just end up with more and more restrictions.

"This is about herd immunity and big population numbers. We have to get lots of people vaccinated in order to stop getting these spikes.

"So it's everybody's job to help no matter what because that's the only way we going to do it.

An observation room at the mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse

An observation room at the mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse - Credit: Danielle Booden

"The more everyone can help us by getting vaccinated, the more freedoms we can have."

The Woolpit-based GP acknowledges going and getting a vaccine can be "a bit of pain" but added that "it's in everybody's interest to do it".

A spokesman for the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, said:  “We are committed to the aim of achieving the government’s target of offering a booster to every adult by the end of the year.

“With latest data suggesting that a booster dose gives protection of over 70% against infection, the urgency of the need for vaccination cannot be underestimated.

“Two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need.

“Government scientists are confident that with a third dose, a booster dose, we can all bring our level of protection back up.

“Locally, although we are already performing well, and are rated fourth in the country for administering vaccines, we know there is a lot of work to do in the coming weeks.

“We have already asked our health and care partners for their support, and their response has been overwhelming, for which we thank them, and we are working on how we can rapidly increase capacity across the patch.

“Our GP and hospital teams are being asked to clinically prioritise their services to free up maximal capacity to support the Covid-19 vaccination programme, alongside delivering critical appointments such as cancer, urgent and emergency care.

“This may mean that for some patients, routine appointments are postponed and we would ask people to be aware of this at this crucial time.

“We need everyone eligible for vaccination to come forward, either by making a booked appointment or going to one of the many walk-in clinics and we urge people to check our local website for latest updates, as well as trusted facts on vaccination at www.sneevaccine.org.uk. “