Covid: Army drafted in to help with vaccine boosters in St Helens as doctors warn they cannot cope

  • Report by Granada Reports correspondent Tim Scott

Soldiers have been drafted in to help with the vaccine rollout as the demand for the booster jab increases.

Huge queues have formed outside Covid vaccination centres as people wait hours in all weather for their jab.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that, in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, all adults would be offered a booster shot before the end of December.

But, GPs across the region say they are unsure how their staff will cope with the strain, unless other services are cancelled.

In the North West already, almost two and half million people have received that third jab.

Dr Rob Barnett leads a busy GP practice in Liverpool, he says he is unsure how his staff with cope with the added pressure.

"I think it's going to be a real struggle, we are already working a lot harder now than we have been for quite some time, it's really difficult to know how we're going to fit it into a 24 hour day.

"Unless the government turns round to us and says we should stop doing certain things I don't know how we're going to cope.

"The problem is I don't know what we're going to stop doing."

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He says had to call his staff together to break the news about how they were going to step up the booster programme.

Dr Barnett added: "Initially I told them we were going to have some downtime between Christmas and New Year, but now we are discussing how we are going to have to ramp up the vaccinations.

"We will probably be vaccinating more at weekends and even possibly between Christmas and New Year on the bank holidays as well as working a bit late into the evenings, so I have to say, it hasn't gone down particularly brilliantly."

The vaccination centre at the Totally Wicked stadium in St Helens was full from the moment it opened at 7am.

In St Helens, soldiers have been drafted in to help at the Totally Wicked Stadium walk-in booster centre where they have been busy since it opened.

Professor Kevin Hardy, of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals, said: "We opened early, 7.30am, and it's been full ever since, people have been getting here as quickly as they can to get those all important booster jabs.

"The message is, turn up and we'll do it."

Hundreds of people queue for one vaccination centre in Whalley Range in Manchester as walk-in appointments opened up for booster jabs. Credit: MEN Media

For the booster roll-out to match the Prime Minister's words, around one million shots a day are now needed nationwide.

Director of Public Health for Liverpool, Professor Matt Ashton, says they are working hard to ensure everyone who wants the vaccine can have it.

He said: "It is a very, very challenging target and so we will be working very closely with our fantastic health colleagues to increase the capacity as quickly as possible, but it remains a challenge."

Since the announcement that all those eligible to get a booster vaccine can, people have struggled to book appointments, and Lateral Flow tests became unavailable as demand increased.

Professor Ashton urged people to be patient. He said: "It is clear there is a lot of demand there so my message is book a slot via the national vaccination site when it comes back on and be patient, keep trying."

The government say say there is not a shortage of Lateral Flow tests and they are available from pharmacies, some schools and community sites.