Covid: Young people descend on Harrow to join queue for vaccine as jab offered to over-18s

People queuing to get their vaccine in Harrow. Credit: PA

Young people keen for clubbing and travel are prepared to queue for hours to get a Covid-19 vaccine at a health centre offering jabs to those aged 18 and over.

Belmont Health Centre in Stanmore, Harrow, is open on Saturday to over-18s who are still waiting for their first vaccine and who live or work in Harrow.

Pfizer jabs are being handed out all day at the walk-in clinic and people do not need to be registered with the practice to get their vaccine.

National eligibility criteria in England states that only those aged 30 and over are currently being invited for their first jab, and it is understood health officials want to prioritise that cohort in Harrow rather than younger age groups.

The poster advertising the walk-in centre clearly states that people aged 18 and over can come along and the majority of the large crowd queued up appear to be in their 20s.

By mid-morning, a huge queue had formed in the area of the health centre, with the line snaking around a car park and stretching down the street.

Among them were 20-year-old students Jamie Lesser and Daniel Simmons who arrived at around 8.15am.

Mr Lesser said it will be a relief to get the jab, saying: “If all plans go ahead, clubs are going to open in three weeks’ time and we both have plans to go out.”

He said he has clubbing plans for “about five days in a row” if nightclubs open, “making up for the last year and a half”.

Mr Lesser said he found out about Saturday’s walk-in through friends in a group chat who had forwarded on information about it.

“To be honest we weren’t intending to give up the whole of the Saturday. We were going to go to the gym fairly early, thought we’d get here very early to avoid the queue, which hasn’t been very successful,” he said.

Jabs are being handed out at the walk-in clinic for over 18s. Credit: PA

Mr Simmons said as soon as he saw the chance to get the jab he thought he would “jump on it”, adding: “I want to get it as soon as possible really.”

Looking ahead to his first night in a club, Mr Simmons said he thinks it will be “very, very busy”, while Mr Lesser suggested it could be “wild”.

Further back in the queue was 27-year-old marketing executive Olga Milevska and 27-year-old student Konstantin Germer.

Ms Milevska said she heard about the walk-in opportunity from a friend and thought it was a “great idea”, adding: “If we can get vaccination a little bit sooner and be protected and protect other people, why not?”

Mr Germer pointed towards the comfort of having more “freedom”, saying: “We also want to travel in summer.”

Others in the queue – 24-year-old Bori Toth and 22-year-old Mirek Blachut – had tried to get their jabs at Twickenham Stadium on Monday when it opened up to people aged 18 and over but they arrived too late.

Mr Blachut said: “That’s why I guess we came here at 8.30am when it was supposed to open but there was already a line.”

He said there were a couple of hundred people ahead of them in the queue when they got there, adding that the Twickenham queue moved much faster than the Harrow queue.

“I think a lot of people are trying to do the walk-in and trying to get excess vaccine, or find these mass vaccine days.

“And so I guess there’s a little a bit of sharing information about the opportunities.

“I think it’s good because none of it goes to waste,” he said.

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Queueing for his jab, Chand Shah, a 25-year-old accountant, said the walk-in centre was “heavily advertised” and he thought it was a “good idea” to get the vaccine ahead of the possible further easing of restrictions on June 21.

Asked if he expected to get his vaccine so soon, he said: “No. I was expecting August to be honest.”

Mr Shah added: “I think if you get the vaccine you feel safer.”

A spokeswoman at North West London Integrated Care System (ICS) said: “We continue to prioritise those in eligible groups.

“We made a local clinical decision to invite wider groups today so that available doses could be used without waste and only people who have been invited from our local communities will be vaccinated.”

Credit: PA Graphics

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said that in some areas, GPs have vaccinated all those eligible and so are moving to the next cohort.

Dr Steve Mowle, spokesman and a GP in south London, said: “At some sites, it is likely GPs have finished vaccinating all eligible patients including those aged 30 and over and are now moving on to the next age cohort.

“This only shows how successful the Covid vaccination programme has been so far, and the incredible and pivotal work of GPs and teams in delivering the programme so efficiently.”