Covid booster programme: Volunteers urged to come forward to help vaccination effort

Volunteers across the south are being urged to come forward to help with the Covid booster programme as efforts are stepped up to get everyone vaccinated.

More than 3.1 million Covid-19 jabs have been delivered across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as part of the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS.

Queues have formed at centres across the region as people wait to receive their booster jab.

It is round two of the so-called 'Great British vaccination effort', as the new Omicron variant continues to cause concern.

Centres, including walk-in facilities, have been set up so people can turn up to have their booster jab.

Queues form in Eastleigh as people prepare for their Covid booster vaccine

The booster programme comes at a time of crisis and unprecedented, mounting pressure on the NHS, but there are concerns that the latest drive to protect people against the virus will add further strain on resources.

Currently in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the NHS is looking to recruit registered health care professionals to take consent, undertake clinical assessments, administer vaccines, or act as clinical supervisors.

People would be required to work with nurses, midwives, doctors, pharmacists, allied health professionals, dental and healthcare scientists.

Angela Anderson, Solent NHS Trust:

Angela Anderson added: "Of course it's going to be a challenge. We need to make sure we have enough workforce, but I'm confident that we'll be able to respond positively.

"We're always looking for new people to come in and support the efforts of the vaccine programme, so new volunteers, people who are trained vaccinators who may not be doing it currently - we would always welcome them back.

"I think we are likely to see some pop-up clinics happening like we did before. There's going to be a booster bus in the coming days and weeks in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight area."

A woman receives her Covid booster in Millbrook, Southampton

In Eastleigh, a temporary site has been set up at St Peter's Church, with volunteers saying they have been inundated over the last few days with many people walking in off the street to get jabbed.

Health ministers say it will take around three weeks to see how effective vaccines are against the new variant, and currently all efforts are focused on this booster programme.

But people are still being told to wait until they are called forward to book.

St Peter's Church in Eastleigh is offering a booster clinic

However, getting all adults triple-vaccinated by the end of January will undoubtedly put more pressure on an already stretched NHS. It is increasingly up to pharmacies to take some of the load.

At one Boots pharmacy in Newbury in Berkshire, staff have already delivered 25,000 Covid vaccinations and are now inoculating 300 people every day.

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Carolyn Sim:

Andrew Jones, Pharmacist, said: "It's become a part of what we do. For a number of years in our communities, pharmacies have been involved in the NHS flu programme on a seasonal basis, and I think community pharmacy continues to show what it's capable of by stepping up and really supporting the NHS through this programme as well."

The government has ordered 114 million more jabs to future proof Britain's booster programme.

It could mean the population will be getting booster vaccinations for a few more years to come, if new variants continue to emerge.

Andrew Lane, National Pharmacy Association, said: "What we're hearing from the virologists is that the Covid virus is likely to continue to mutate as new variants emerge over the coming months and years.

"We'll end up pretty much like the flu virus where we see different variants emerging each year requiring a different strain of flu vaccine to protect the population.

"It was predicted early on, that the Covid virus will likely be around for the foreseeable future.

"Community pharmacy will have a place in protecting the public as it's doing now really."