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Health chiefs battle to increase vaccination capacity to hit New Year Covid booster target

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Health chiefs in West Norfolk are facing a huge challenge following a fresh extension of the coronavirus booster vaccination programme.

Walk-in boosters have been suspended as officials grapple with a new target of giving the latest jab to all adults by the end of this month.

And there has been a fresh plea for calm amid claims of both verbal and physical abuse of vaccination staff.

Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccine and syringe for injection. (53506700)
Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccine and syringe for injection. (53506700)

At present, all adults over 30, who have been double vaccinated for a minimum of three months, can book a booster jab.

The offer is expected to be extended to everyone over the age of 18 from tomorrow.

That follows a televised address by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Sunday night, in which he announced an acceleration of the programme to tackle what he described as the “emergency” caused by the Omicron variant.

Shakespeare Barn at the Guoldhall is Lynn's large scale vaccination centre. (53615132)
Shakespeare Barn at the Guoldhall is Lynn's large scale vaccination centre. (53615132)

That superseded last week’s aim to complete the booster programme by the end of January, which itself had led to queues outside centres including the Shakespeare Barn in Lynn where some patients were turned away.

A spokesman for the NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said yesterday: “We are busy working with our provider partners across the health and care system to increase capacity for Covid-19 booster vaccinations.

“We’ve already added thousands of additional appointments to book via the national booking service and will continue to add more every day.

“More GP practices are also stepping in to help with our focus on vaccinating at pace and speed over the next few weeks.

“We are also looking at ways to increase the number of bookable boosters available quickly by extending opening hours and increasing capacity at existing sites through adding extra dates and slots.”

All booster jabs are now being delivered by appointment, following the suspension of a walk-in programme at the weekend. Only first or second vaccine doses are now available on a walk-in basis.

Speaking ahead of the weekend’s announcement, Howard Martin, from the CCG said the move was “temporary” and intended to help reducing queues.

He added: “We also hope that by reducing long waits at our vaccination sites we will in turn see less verbal and physical abuse directed towards our staff.

“We understand that people want to get a vaccine as soon as possible but there is absolutely no excuse for anti-social behaviour towards our vaccinators, administrators, and stewards.

“These are the very staff we are relying on to deliver our vaccination programme and we should be extremely grateful for the personal sacrifices they are making.”

The new extension of the programme led to massive demand to book slots online yesterday, while there was also a huge surge in orders for home testing kits.

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