'Confusion' over Covid Booster jab 'lag' - Health Chiefs warn

Covid jab

Covid jab - Credit: Steven Cornfield / Unsplash

Health leaders have reminded people they will be contacted when they become eligible to receive Covid booster jabs, despite a potential delay in invitations being sent out. 

Deputy leader of Devon County Council James McInnes told a virtual meeting of the health and wellbeing board: ‘there does seem to be some confusion’ and asked for clarification on behalf of the public. 

The NHS in Devon says it will let people know by letter, text or email when it is their turn, so there is no need to contact the health service in advance. People can then book using the national booking service or by calling 119. 

However, Tina Henry, Devon’s deputy director of public health said there appeared to be a lag time of around a week to 10 days between when people become eligible and when they appear on the booking system. She added the issue had been passed on to a national level. 

Despite this, councillor Roger Croad (Conservative, Ivybridge) said he had received a text message asking him to book his booster jab ‘exactly 182 days after my second one,’ adding: “That was absolutely spot on as far as I’m concerned.” 

Booster jabs are offered six months after second doses and are currently offered to older people in care homes, frontline health and care workers, 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. 

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

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Last week Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said he was ‘concerned’ about the uptake of the booster, with fewer than half of people eligible receiving it so far. 

At a virtual meeting of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board, Dr Johnson said it was proving ‘more difficult’ than the initial vaccination programme and that health teams were working on how to encourage people to come forward. 

He added: “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. 

“There’s no added benefit in giving the booster prior to six months, but there is benefit [between] six to 12 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. 

Dr Johnson said plenty of appointments are available: “We have the capacity. We’re just not having the people coming forward.” 

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

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. 

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 asks people offered appointments to take them up as soon as possible. 

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