Devon health boss 'concerned' at low Covid booster uptake

North Devon Gazette

A Devon health chief says he’s ‘concerned’ about the uptake of covid booster jabs, with less than half of people eligible having received it so far.Â

Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, revealed that of the 163,000 people in Devon now due their booster, having had their second jab six months or more ago, only 42 per cent have come forward for it.Â

Presenting health data to a virtual meeting of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board, Dr Johnson said almost 100,000 eligible people were being asked to book and that it’s proving ‘more difficult’ than the initial vaccination programme.Â

“It doesn’t mean that those people have missed their chance because actually the six months [between second jab and booster] is the minimum of six months,” Dr Johnson said.Â

“There’s no added benefit in giving the booster prior to six months, but there is benefit [between] six to twelve months, so there is a window of opportunity for people to come forward and have their vaccine because we’re only a month into the programme.Â

“There will be some people who will still come forward out of that 58 per cent without needing prompting, but we are concerned, and I think it is a real issue that we will not get the same numbers for the booster that we got for the first and second doses.”Â

Those eligible include older people living in care homes, frontline health and care workers, all over-50s, those aged 16 to 49 years with health conditions putting them at higher risk, adult carers over 16 and household contacts (aged 16 or over) of at-risk individuals.Â

People who are pregnant and in one of the eligible groups above can also get a booster.Â

Dr Johnson said there were many reasons for the poor initial uptake including the ‘sense of importance for getting the booster’ and that health teams were working on how to encourage people to come forward.Â

He added there were plenty of appointments available for those eligible. “We have the capacity. We’re just not having the people coming forward,” he said.Â

The NHS in Devon will let people know when it’s their turn by letter, text or email and there’s no need to contact the health service in advance.Â

Once they’ve received their invitation, people can book using the National Booking Service or calling 119. Booster doses are currently only available through booked appointments.Â

Vaccine teams will visit care homes and offer both staff and residents the vaccine at the same time.Â

Locations offering boosters include the Riviera International Centre in Torquay, Home Park football stadium in Plymouth, Exeter’s Greendale on the Sidmouth Roard, Newton Abbot Racecourse and Barnstaple Leisure Centre.Â

Some pharmacies and GP practices are providing booster jabs too. Pop-up vaccine centres will also be held, as has happened throughout the vaccination programme.Â

Government scientists say it is safe and effective to get the booster and the flu vaccine at the same time. Where possible, appointments for both jabs will be made together. The NHS says people offered appointments should take them up as soon as possible.Â