Pharmacies offering Covid booster jab to be tripled to help roll-out

The one millionth Covid-19 vaccine dose will be delivered from vaccination centres this week

People have been queuing for booster jabs at Suffolk's walk-in clinics - Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Some elderly people have been waiting in line for two hours for Covid booster jabs, and now more community pharmacies are set to help out.

The number of community pharmacies offering booster jabs is to be tripled to help with the rollout.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks told an emergency meeting of the Suffolk local outbreak engagement board  he had received emails from residents going to the Gainsborough Sports Centre vaccination hub in Ipswich where the queues were “two hours long”, which meant people were turning back home.

Matthew Hicks, chair of the mid-Suffolk development control committee

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks - Credit: GREGG BROWN

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing at Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups, said: “I think we have been surprised by the numbers of people that have visited our walk-in centres.

“That is not acceptable at all for people to be waiting for two hours and turned away – these are our most elderly population and we need to be better than that.

“But I think the number of people who have preferred a walk-in option, particularly Gainsborough, has surprised us all.”

According to the CCGs, the two areas of Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk need to vaccinate 13,000 people per week each up to the end of the year to hit the booster programme target, with Lisa Nobes explaining that there was “absolutely the capacity to do that”.

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She said: “We have increased our community pharmacies across Suffolk and North East Essex from 15 to 49, and yesterday by our regional teams we were given the go-ahead to put forward more pharmacies, so we will be encouraging more pharmacies to come forward.

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing at Suffolk\'s clinical commissioning groups

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing at Suffolk\'s clinical commissioning groups - Credit: IPSWICH & EAST SUFFOLK CCG/WEST SUFFOLK CCG

“We know for our rural residents the community pharmacy option is the best option for them.”

Currently, 98,000 people in Ipswich and East Suffolk are eligible for a booster jab, of which 41,000 have been vaccinated – 42.5%. In West Suffolk 24,000 of the 63,000 eligible have been given a booster (37.8%).

Norfolk and Waveney – which includes the north Suffolk area – has given booster jabs to around 50% of its 200,000 eligible adults.

For the 12-15 age group, 32% of the at-risk group, 31% of the immunosuppressed and 14% of the not-at-risk cohort have been jabbed.

Options around pop-up vaccination and walk-in clinics for that age group are currently being explored.

One acknowledged problem has been with the messaging around the Covid-19 booster jab programme that has caused some confusion.

The national message has been for people to wait for an invite while local health leaders have urged people to come forward if it is has been 190 days or more since their last jab.

“We know there has been a delay in people receiving alerts to tell them that they are eligible, and for some of our residents getting a text is difficult to understand,” Ms Nobes said.

“Locally we are really increasing our communication. If you believe you are eligible and it has been 190 days since your second dose then please come forward for a vaccine.”

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