Renewed calls for people across the North East to get their Covid vaccines

A renewed call has gone out for people across the North East to get their Covid vaccines after some clinics saw a fall in attendance over the festive season.

One centre in Hartlepool is vaccinating around a fifth of the number of people that it saw in the busiest period before Christmas. 

The call comes as NHS services are under increased strain due to Covid and other winter pressures.

16-year-old Josh in Hartlepool received his first Covid jab today.

A vaccination clinic at Hartlepool's Victoria Road medical centre is seeing a growing number of young people coming forward for the first time.

Nikki Easton from the Covid vaccination programme said: "I think there still is an element of vaccine hesitancy which I would encourage people to come down to the clinic and see a healthcare professional and discuss their concerns.

"I think there is also an element of patients that maybe have had Covid recently, so to get the message out that they can have their vaccination once they are four weeks clear of their Covid positive test."

All this comes as GP surgeries are also dealing with the effects of Covid. One Hartlepool family doctor says it is contributing to the busiest period he has known in 30 years of practice.

Dr Carl Parker said: "We've got about a 10% sickness absence rate at the moment and that really does have an impact.

"A lot of the clinicians are willing and able to work from home if they feel well enough to do so and they can still do a lot of those online consultations etc, telephone consultations but our receptionists can't work from home to do that so it does put increased pressure on the people who are in working.

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Three North East councils have also spoken out about the strain caused by Covid - and urged people to get up to date with their vaccines.

In a statement posted on the authority's website Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, warned that care services are being hit by staff absence caused by the virus.

He said: "A number of Council areas, including public-facing services such as social care, are being impacted by staff absences in a service which supports our most vulnerable residents, and at a time when we're working hard to support the wider health response to the pandemic.

"We're doing all we can to minimise disruption to local services, but the situation is fluid."

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council's director of public health, said the Omicron variant along with other winter illnesses is putting "very real strain" on the NHS.

She said: "As with everywhere else across the country we are currently experiencing high coronavirus infection rates as a result of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

"This, in addition to other seasonal illnesses, is putting very real strain on our NHS and also organisations and businesses of varying sizes which are having to cope with increased levels of staff absence."

Tom Hall, South Tyneside's Director of Public Health, urged people to "be cautious to reduce the spread".

He added: "The best course of action is for people to continue to be cautious to reduce the spread and get all their vaccinations to give themselves and others around them the best protection possible."