'The Great Vaccine Weekender': Sheffield health staff bid to give 30,000 Covid boosters this weekend

This weekend in Sheffield has been named ‘The Great Vaccine Weekender’ as NHS staff will pull out all the stops to deliver a record amount of booster jabs.

Thursday, 16th December 2021, 1:07 pm

More than 30,000 booster jabs and vaccines will be delivered at various clinics across the city, with 21,000 of those being administered by GP networks on top of the ones already booked.

And walk-in boosters will be added to that total, as the health service in the city vaccinates a record amount of people in a bid to limit the impact of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of Covid.

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Nurses at the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield preparing vaccine doses.

Dr Thomas Holdsworth, GP at Mosborough Health Centre, will be one of those working to vaccinate Sheffield as quickly as possible.

He said: “This is a huge amount of work. There will be people working long hours organising the supply chain, the workforce, inviting patients, giving vaccines, helping with parking and doing many other things.

"Organisations will be working together across the city along with the support of other services like the army to do their best for Sheffield.

“With the new Omicron strain of Covid spreading we have only a few days to give as many booster vaccinations as we can before the number of people who have Covid increases very quickly.

Dr Ollie Hart. Picture: Chris Etchells

"If we can give these boosters, it will save lives and protect our essential services like the NHS.”

The drive to vaccinate as many people as possible comes after Boris Johnson pledged to give every adult in the country the opportunity to have a booster jab by New Year.

Dr Holdsworth added: “The good news is that we have given thousands of doses of covid vaccine already in Sheffield so we know how to organise the logistics and we know the vaccine is safe and effective.

"The speed needed this time means we will need as many people as possible to play their part by quickly taking up the offer of booster vaccination. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, as well as friends and family who may be more vulnerable to Covid than you are.

Dr Tom Holdsworth

“It is daunting sitting here in the relative calm before the storm, but I know that when I look back in twenty years time it will be amazing to tell my grandchildren about what I did during the pandemic. The work is hard, but I am so glad I can play my part.

"This weekend I would urge you if you haven’t had a booster and it is three months since your last vaccine, make the most of this opportunity and be part of the ‘Great Vaccine Weekender’.

"If we can do this together as a city we can keep each other safe, we can avoid further lock downs and we can spend our Christmas more safely with the ones we love.”

As predicted by Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell, Omicron is now present in Sheffield. Experts predict it will be the dominant variant by Christmas.

And science has shown that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than any previous variants, giving rise to concern about the number of people who may end up in hospital if infected – even if the strain is less potent as some people believe it is.

Dr Oliver Hart, of Sloan Medical Centre in Meersbrook, said: “Omicron is spreading very quickly and Sheffield is like every other city in the UK.

"So we have got a small window to try and boost people’s protection against it.

"What we know from research is the two injections most people have had is not enough to protect you against Omicron. Having a booster dose more than doubles your protection up to around 70 per cent.

"That is not perfect, but it should be enough to protect us and our families and stop this from becoming really devastating.”

The extra workload of delivering vaccines for an already-overstretched GP service in the city has caused some concern around whether other appointments – for example those for patients with cancer – will end up being cancelled.

With the demand for vaccine appointments in their surgeries, at home visits and at care home visits now resting with many GPs’ shoulders, doctors face a balancing act to ensure they can help people with other health concerns, too.

Earlier this week, Dr Ben Allen of Birley Health Centre spoke to The Star to reassure patients, and Dr Hart also said that clinics would be working hard to ‘balance’ the vaccine drive with ‘normal general practice’.

Dr Hart said: “GPs are massively rejigging their provision to deliver vaccine appointments in practices and will be making these appointments available soon on a large scale. In Sheffield GPs are working tirelessly to make that provision.

"We have to be selective about what we are able to deal with because we need to run both normal general practice and the vaccinations alongside.

"Normal general practice is incredibly important. We will still of course do all we can to keep people safe.

"We will screen for serious illness and pick out the most important things.

"But we might have to be a little bit quicker with some of the more trivial stuff and ask you to bear with us.

"Let’s work together a a team to keep each other safe and get ourselves protected before Christmas.”

And Dr Holdsworth added some words of encouragement to people concerns about feeling poorly over Christmas after their booster jab.

He said: “You can sometimes have a sore arm or feel tired and achy for a day or two after a vaccine so it is understandable under normal circumstances to want to organise your jab for a convenient day.

"Unfortunately at this moment delaying your vaccine is more risky because of the very infectious Omicron variant.

" Many people dont have any side effects from vaccination and for those that do they are usually mild and settle quickly. Taking some paracetamol if you feel achy or sore will often help as well as avoiding excess alcohol and making sure you have enough rest.”

The booster is available to everybody over 18 years old but you have to have left a three month window from the second jab until you can have a booster.

You can book a Covid booster by searching online for 'NHS book covid vaccine' or by ringing 119.

You can also go to a walk-in site at Heeley Parish Church or St Oswald’s on Abbeydale Road.

GP practices will also be inviting patients, starting with those most at risk, and working their way through their lists.

If you get an invite from your GP please book an appointment to avoid missing out.

If you havent managed to book an appointment and you want a vaccine you can turn up on the day at The Mathews Practice Asline road 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday 18 and 19 December for a vaccine.

GPs have stressed that it is very important you don’t ring the practice in the meantime to request a vaccine.

GPs need their phone lines clear to deal with patients urgently needing help and keeping these phone lines open will increase their ability to deal with illnesses other than Covid while also helping to deliver the vaccine.