North East needs to double daily vaccine numbers to meet booster target

Booster jabs are being rolled out for young people
Copyright: PA
Credit: ITV News

The North East will need to double the number of vaccines being delivered each day in order to meet the target of giving every eligible adult a Covid-19 booster jab by the end of the year.

Boris Johnson announced a massive acceleration of the booster programme on 12 December, in a bid to combat the Omicron variant rapidly sweeping across the country.

Over-30s in England who had their second dose of a vaccine at least three months ago can book a booster online and, from Wednesday 15 December, this will be extended to over-18s.

It is unclear at this stage exactly how many people are currently eligible for a booster, as some will have recently caught Covid and therefore have to wait 28 days until their third jab.

The move has sparked major concerns at how exhausted and stretched NHS staff can deliver on that pledge, with long queues outside vaccination centres already and problems with the online booking system.

NHS bosses in the region confirmed that opening hours for vaccine centres will be extended over and that extra mobile and pop-up clinics will also be rolled out, in order to boost capacity by 50% this week and by 100% soon after.

North East health chiefs are urging people to book a vaccine appointment online as soon as possible though rather than turn up to walk-in clinics.

Across the North East and North Cumbria there are five large vaccination centres, 68 primary care network locations, 193 community pharmacy locations - all of which must be booked to use.

Newcastle GP services said that it would take a "superhuman effort" to give 100,000 people in the city boosters in less than three weeks and that it was "working hard to set up the additional clinics needed to meet the demand".

Elizabeth Morgan, Northumberland's director of public health and lead director for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, added: "NHS staff with the help of lots of partners were already working incredibly hard to deliver covid vaccines as swiftly as possible but the threat posed by Omicron is grave.

"We know that two doses don't provide as much protection as we would like, but thankfully, a booster dramatically improves this. That's why the Government have asked the NHS to prioritise boosters over other routine care.

"For people who have not yet had a vaccine please don't forget that it is never too late to get protected and you can take advantage of all the extra appointments that are being made available."