Omicron: Bristolians not coming forward for boosters despite queue pictures, says jab chief

Cases of the virus are doubling in the region every day, but people are putting off their boosters until January.

The head of the Covid-19 vaccination drive in Bristol says people are not coming forward for their booster in the run-up to Christmas, despite soaring Omicron cases and long queues for the jab being pictured over the weekend.

Anne Morris, chief nurse of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire vaccination programme, said the scheme ramped up capacity after Boris Johnson announced a booster for everyone by the end of December.

But despite a huge rush over the weekend, demand has now fizzled out, with many seemingly ‘putting off’ their booster until the New Year even though clinics are running every day in the city including on Christmas Eve.

Ms Morris believes this could be down to people worrying they will become ill from short-term effects of the booster and ruin their Christmas plans.

But as Omicron cases spiral across the region and nationally, she said it’s never been more important to ‘grab a jab’ and it could be ‘the greatest gift you give yourself and your family’ this Christmas.

It is estimated that if the vaccination drive progresses at the same rate, one in five people in the country will have Covid by the end of December.

“It’s true that there was a rush over the weekend, and as a matter of fact we actually vaccinated 51,000 across the region over those three days,” said Ms Morris.

Long queues were pictured in Bristol at the weekend as people scrambled to get their booster. But demand has since tailed off.

“We worked hard to get everything in place before then, following Boris Johnson’s announcement, but now we have all this capacity but things are much, much quieter.

“I think people are concerned they’ll become ill from short-term effects of the booster, but these are mild, and easily treatable.

“Potentially, people might be isolating in order to preserve their Christmas plans - again, all our staff and volunteers follow social distancing in our clinics and wear masks, and you’re out relatively quickly.

“It’s definitely not the same as visiting a crowded supermarket, even at the larger centres where we’re carrying our vaccinations.”

Ms Morris said that even if you have your booster booked in January, but it would be wise to move it forward before Christmas if you’re eligible.

‘Everyone decides at a different rate, and that’s ok’

She added: “I’d also really like to encourage those who haven’t been for their first or second jab to come and see us too.

“Everyone decides at a different rate, and that’s ok. There has been a lot of mixed messaging for the public to digest.

“For example in the beginning, pregnant women were told they could wait to be vaccninated after they had delivered their baby.

“What we found later on is that it’s actually very important for them to be vaccinated.

“A lot of research has taken place into these vaccines, they weren’t developed overnight.

A member of staff prepares a Covid-19 Pfizer jab at a pop-up vaccination centre at Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, where TikTok are encouraging young Londoners to get jabbed. Picture date: Saturday October 2, 2021.

“We were just lucky that in the UK we were able to make them accessible for the public quickly.

“Vaccination has saved thousands of lives, not just the Covid-19 jab. You barely see things like polio these days, and that’s because people were vaccinated against it.

“The third dose will provide you with so much more protection, but even if you haven’t had your first jab, it’s never too late.

“If you come into a clinic or see your GP there will be no judgement from us, we’re just delighted you came to be vaccinated.

“The booster could be the best present you could give yourself and your loved ones this Christmas.”

‘Please have your Covid-19 vaccine now - cases are doubling every day’

A joint statement from Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire’s directors of Public Health was sent out to the public this week.

It reads: “Please have your Covid-19 vaccine, now. Getting your booster is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.

“The Omicron Covid-19 variant is highly transmissible and case numbers are doubling every two days in our area.

“This means that by 31 December we can expect one in five people to have Covid in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

“Having your Covid-19 booster will give you added protection against Omicron but the longer you wait to have your booster, the more likely you are to catch Covid.

“Side effects from vaccination don’t last long and are nothing compared to having Covid.

“We have lots of capacity for vaccinating between now and the end of December. Our clinics are open until 24 December and start up, again, on 27 December.

Please respond to the invitation from your GP to book your booster or visit www.grabajab.net for all local options, including walk-in clinics and a link to the National Booking System.

“If you have already booked an appointment in the new year, but are able to have your booster sooner, you can rebook via the National Booking Service or attend a walk-in clinic, but please remember to cancel your other appointment.”

Clinics are running throughout Christmas Eve and will resume on December 27.