Double number of life-saving army of volunteers needed in Covid booster race

A vaccine centre in Hampshire is looking to double its army of volunteers offering Covid booster jabs as demand for vaccinations continues to rise.

St James's Hospital Vaccination centre in Portsmouth currently has 250 people giving up their free time in the race to get everyone vaccinated by the end of the year. But they are aiming to increase that figure to at least 500 people.

Watch our report by ITV Meridian reporter Mary Stanley

It comes after the Prime Minister issued a rallying cry for more helpers to get jabs into arms in the wake of the Omicron variant. New evidence suggests Omicron is extremely transmissible and two jabs are not enough to protect people against infection.Long queues have formed at centres across the south, as people try and follow the Government's advice to get boosted now, following the announcement that anyone over the age of 18 is now eligible.

Volunteers at St James's vaccination centre in Portsmouth

On Tuesday morning (14 December) in Portsmouth, volunteers were out in force to help the booster programme. They're looking after everything from directing people in the queues, to managing car parks and the paperwork.

John Hargreaves, has been volunteering for 2 or 3 days a week since St James's Hospital Vaccination centre opened in February. He's told ITV Meridian, he's proud to do his part in the vaccination programme as he says he's helping to save lives.

Solent NHS Trust needs to double the number of volunteers as the number of vaccinations across Hampshire and Isle of Wight is expected to double from 70,000 to 140,000 a week.

Queues formed in Swindon this morning as people waiting for a Covid booster jab Credit: Tom Sykes

At the Sandford House vaccine centre in Swindon, council staff in high vis jackets told more than half of those waiting, to go home.

One man who was queuing since 7:15am said he was told there were only 120 doses of the vaccine on offer, with once clinician available to give the jabs.

The borough council posted an update on Twitter, confirming that demand has been extremely high and that some people have been turned away. The authority is now urging people to book an appointment online when they can, rather than turning up, hoping for a walk-in appointment.

In Reading, the town's mass vaccination centre at Broad Street Mall is currently operating at full capacity, but residents are urged to regularly check online for available local slots on the NHS website.

People queueing at a vaccine centre in Oxfordshire were turned away on Monday (13 December) after demand meant no more walk-in appointments were available.

Simon Cole was told to 'go down because they've got plenty of room'. But when he arrived at Exeter Hall in Kidlington, he was informed there were no more walk-ins appointments available.

Anita Sherwood, Oxford Health’s interim director for COVID operations, said: “As more people become eligible to book appointments on the National Booking System we have taken the decision to suspend our walk-in offer so that we are able to maintain the smooth running of the mass vaccination centres.“It is very encouraging to see so many people coming to our sites for their jabs every day and our teams are committed to ensuring that everyone who books gets theirs alongside a high level of care and customer service.

She added, "We don’t want people to have a wasted journey so would encourage people to book an appointment or seek an alternative walk-in via the national website if that is what they prefer.“We are continually looking at how we can use our resources to maximise appointment capacity and will keep the situation under review.”

The government website also ran out of lateral flow testing kits on Monday morning amid huge demand after double-jabbed people in England who are close contacts of Covid cases were told to take the at home tests for seven days in a row from Tuesday.

ITV News tried ordering lateral flow tests online from several regions across England but were told each time "there are no more home tests available".Professor of Technology and Society at the Oxford Internet Institute, Gina Neff says her family are about to run out of tests in her household and she has been unable to order anymore on the NHS website.

She said, "Being able to order on the NHS website is one less errand we have to g out and do.

"My kids don't have to remember to pick them up from the school nurse, they just come straight to the house and that's the way it should be as we go towards Christmas."

Professor of Technology and Society at the Oxford Internet Institute, Gina Neff