Covid boosters: Huge queues form across South East in race to get vaccine before Christmas

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Derek Johnson

A queue of hundreds has formed as hundreds flocked to one Brighton street in hopes of getting a booster jab on Monday morning.

Walk-in centres across the south east of England are experiencing high demand after Boris Johnson ramped up the rollout race.

Local health services told ITV Meridian they are braced and ready to field the high demand after the Prime Minister urged everyone over-18 to get their third shot by the end of the year.

The leader has put the accelerator on the booster campaign in response to the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.

In Brighton, a line snaked down the path leading up to The Whitehawk Inn, a community centre that was providing a walk-in service this morning.

Queue for booster vaccines in Brighton. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Mr Johnson announced that from Monday in England, the booster vaccine programme will be opened up to every adult over 18 who has had a second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago.

The NHS booking system will be open to the younger age groups from Wednesday.

Demand caused the booking site to struggle under the wave of demand following Sunday's announcement, as people rushed to get an appointment.

The PM had warned in his address to the nation that there is 'a tidal wave of Omicron coming,' with an urgent need for people to receive their booster jabs before the end of the year.

At least one person in the UK has died with the Omicron variant of Covid, officials confirmed on Monday.

Admin staff at Friarsgate Practice in Winchester. Credit: ITV News Meridian

In Winchester, one GP practice says it is ready to turbocharge its vaccine programme.

Marc Dryden, the managing partner of Friarsgate Practice, said: "Since Boris' announcement already we've added almost double our capacity this week, and we very much hope to do that next week as well."

However Mr Dryden said one of the main challenges with providing a vaccine programme as well as routine appointments, is the welfare of staff.

He added: "We have been doing this for over a year now, so we do have to make sure we don't exhaust our staff, particularly the admin staff. It is hard work."

At a vaccine centre in Fleet, people were being turned away by the early afternoon for walk-ins due to numbers, but health staff there said they would not give up.

Dr Nina Durasami said: "The NHS rises to every challenge it is given."

"We want to save Christmas and New Year too. We want to see our families, we are exhausted but we will not give up."

Watch: People getting their jabs at a centre in Ticehurst say they trust the science

In areas experiencing extremely high demand, the army will be deployed to help vaccinators.

Some GPs and hospitals will be told to cancel or postpone non-urgent appointments and surgery so resources can be dedicated to the programme.