Thousands vaccinated in a day in huge effort against Covid

A mass vaccination event in Newmarket saw thousands of people get their jab. Pictured is health boss Ed Garratt 

A mass vaccination event in Newmarket saw thousands of people get their jab. Pictured is health boss Ed Garratt - Credit: Danielle Booden

Thousands of people have been jabbed against Covid in a single day as vaccination efforts ramp up amid the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse today is one of the largest in the country, with 10,000 people booked in to receive their dose.

Ella Harris, admin, Graham Weatherley, volunteer, Alex Prosser-Snelling, St Johns ambulance vaccinat

Ella Harris, admin, Graham Weatherley, volunteer, Alex Prosser-Snelling, St John Ambulance vaccination volunteer, Lucy Archer, ops lead for the event, Dr Richard West MBE, organiser, Sonia Jewers, volunteer vaccinator, Dr Ridsdill Smith, GP, and Katie Proctor, volunteer vaccinator - Credit: Danielle Booden

Omicron has raised concern, but people have been advised not to panic.

It is also early days in terms of our knowledge of this new variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

Dr Richard West MBE, who was leading the Newmarket vaccination pilot event, said mass vaccine centres were "crucially important" in terms of protecting ourselves against Omicron.

Dr Richard West MBE, organiser, at the mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse. Picture: Dan

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

Dr West, a GP at Woolpit Health Centre, said: "The more people we get vaccinated the safer we all become.

"We know the vaccine isn't absolutely perfect for Omicron, but it's better than anything else we have got. We become safer from being vaccinated than not being vaccinated.

"The more disease we have got going around, the more chance we have got that there will be a variant and more variants can cause problems." 

An observation room at the mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse. Picture: Danielle Booden

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

He added: "The more prudent we can be now, hopefully the less problems we can have going forward."

Most Read

Dr West said with mass vaccination events such as this it was important to match against demand in the local area. 

*At the time of publication, we did not have information on the total number of people who were vaccinated at the centre.

'It's much more of a production line process'

In only three weeks since plans for the mass vaccine centre were floated, health officials managed to mobilise 40 vaccinators, a further 60 or so volunteers including stewards and a team of about 30 people doing administration.

Dr West said they had managed to speed things up by splitting up different parts of the process, for example by the admin team taking the paperwork off the vaccinators. 

A volunteer helping with the admin at the mass vacciantion centre at Newmarket Racecourse. Picture:

A volunteer helping with the admin at the mass vacciantion centre at Newmarket Racecourse - Credit: Danielle Booden

"It's much more of a production line-type process," he added.

People could receive a first, second or booster dose at the centre, as long as they were eligible, and in the afternoon the event opened up to walk-ins.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North East Essex clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), was among those getting their boosters.

Ed Garratt, executive lead for Suffolk and North East Essex CCG's, having his booster jab at the mas

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk, West Suffolk and North East Essex CCGs, being given his booster by Suffolk chief nurse Lisa Nobes - Credit: Danielle Booden

Dr Garratt said: "It's just such a fantastic feeling, isn't it? It's so well organised and a very positive environment."

He wanted to thank all the volunteers, staff and Newmarket Racecourse for hosting the event. 

Will more mass vaccination centres be rolled out?

Suffolk's chief nurse Lisa Nobes, who administered Dr Garratt's booster, said mass vaccine centres were part of their overall strategy to hit the numbers they need to.

"We will have our local pharmacies vaccinating and surgeries, but we will have more and more walk-ins and pop-up clinics like this," she said.

Lisa Nobes, chief nurse for Suffolk and North Ezzes CCG's, at the mass vaccination centre at Newmark

Lisa Nobes, chief nurse for Suffolk, at the mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse - Credit: Danielle Booden

She said Suffolk and North East Essex has given boosters to 78% of those who are eligible and Suffolk is the fifth highest nationally for the booster programme.

When asked how worried we should be about Omicron, she said: "I think we should be worried about all the Covid variants. They all have the ability to make us ill and give us long Covid.

"One of the only things we have in our toolkits of preventing serious illness is the vaccine."

How should we navigate the Christmas party?

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey recently warned people to avoid "snogging under the mistletoe" at Christmas parties to help stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

With many Christmas gatherings imminent, Ms Nobes said people needed to make sure they understood their own risk, for example if you are immuno-suppressed you may want to think about taking greater precautions than someone who isn't.

A mass vaccination centre at Newmarket Racecourse. Picture: Danielle Booden

Newmarket Racecourse hosted the event - Credit: Danielle Booden

For her Christmas night out she said she would be wearing a mask, the group would be doing their lateral flow tests beforehand and they had checked to make sure the venue is well-ventilated. 

She added: "I won't be dancing. I think people do just need to keep cautious and keep in a ventilated area and wear masks and make sure you have your vaccine."

Members of the public on getting their jab

Among the thousands who were vaccinated today was Frank Challis, 59, from Haverhill, who said he wanted to "protect others around me".

Frank Challis, from Haverhill, was among those vaccinated at the centre

Frank Challis, from Haverhill, was among those vaccinated at the centre - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

He said while he hadn't changed any Christmas plans, the tightening of travel rules may impact on his hopes to book a holiday for March.

"We have to see how it pans out now," he said.

Also jabbed was Colin Sykes, 50, also from Haverhill, who stressed how important it was for him to get his booster as he has had health problems.

Ex-soldier Colin Sykes said the experience at the centre had been "brilliant"

Ex-soldier Colin Sykes said the experience at the centre had been "brilliant" - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

"When the NHS says something, you just follow the instruction," said the former soldier, who now works as a catering manager.

Anita Morris was there with her daughter Abigail Vickers, 16, whose sense of smell has still not returned after she had Covid seven or eight weeks ago.

Miss Vickers had been due to have her first dose, but it was delayed as she had coronavirus.

Her mum said getting the vaccine was "most definitely" important, to protect the rest of the family as well.

She said the centre had been "so well organised".

Reporter Mariam Ghaemi also took the opportunity to get her booster at the Newmarket clinic today. She shares her experience.

Getting my booster while also covering the huge vaccine effort today for Archant probably took multi-tasking to another level.

I was booked in for Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday, but when they opened the mass vaccine centre up to walk-ins while I was there I grabbed the opportunity to get jabbed.

The process was clear and efficient from the moment I arrived and was directed by the stewards in the car park, to afterwards, waiting for 15 minutes in the obs room.

Volunteers and staff were friendly and there was a feeling of jubilance as so many of us pulled together in a huge push against the virus.

We don't know what future weeks and months will hold, but by getting our vaccines when we are eligible, we at least know we are doing all we can.