Omicron should give to a rise in caution, but not alarm.
Please continue to test regularly.
Changes in booster eligibility will take some time to come into force while our local NHS increases capacity.
Neighbouring GP federations are supporting Bexhill GPs to deliver pop-up vaccination clinics at Sidley Medical Practice
Whilst our NHS increases capacity, please travel to an alternative site if possible or go to your local pop-up if you are not able to attend an alternative site.
What do we know about Omicron so far?
As the Omicron variant is so new, we are unclear on what its impact will be, and how effective our vaccines will be against it. We do not expect to know this information for the next two to three weeks.
We do know that Omicron is a very extensive mutation which differs significantly from previous configurations of the virus.
Omicron should give to a rise in caution, but not alarm.
Will getting my booster protect me against Omicron?
Whilst scientific studies and data analysis are ongoing, there is good reason to believe that vaccines will provide at least some level of protection against Omicron. If you are boosted, your response is likely to be stronger. It is vital more than ever that people get their jabs as fast as possible.
What can I do to protect myself and others from Omicron while studies are ongoing, and I am awaiting my booster?
The government now requires everyone to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops, as it assesses the continued rise in rates and the rapid emergence of Omicron.
Please keep testing regularly ahead of mixing at work or socially. A positive lateral flow test should always be followed up by booking a PCR test so the sample can be sequenced, and variants identified. This is the best way to get an early warning of possible infection and will help East Sussex NHS understand what is happening locally.
We should also continue the measures we have been practising over the last few months: hands, face, space and fresh air.
What changes have been announced to the vaccine programme?
- All adults will be offered a COVID-19 booster by the end of January.
- The time between a second vaccine and a booster will be reduced from six months to three, however you will be called forward by the NHS when it is your turn.
- 12 to 15 year olds are recommended to have a second vaccine.
The NHS will be in touch to let people know when it’s their turn.
Who is eligible to get a booster?
The eligibility for booster vaccinations has changed in light of Omicron, however, this change will take some time to come into force while our local NHS increases capacity.
The JCVI advises that everyone over the age of 18 is eligible for a booster when the NHS calls them forward.
The booster will be offered in order of descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group. The booster will now be given no sooner than three months after the primary course.
As 16- to 17-year-olds will only have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer or early autumn, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered later when more information is available.
The NHS will be calling people forward for their COVID-19 booster at the appropriate time, so that those who are most vulnerable will be prioritised. Please wait to be contacted by the NHS.
Which vaccine will be administered at my booster?
Those eligible will be offered a booster dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine.
If for any reason you are not able to have one of those vaccines, you will be offered a dose of AstraZeneca (if you received this vaccine in your primary course).
All of these vaccines are safe and highly effective, and the NHS will ensure you are offered a vaccine suitable for you.
Why is there no vaccination centre in Bexhill?
There is no centre for vaccinations in Bexhill this time round because our local Bexhill Primary Care Network (PCN) of GP practices which ran the Sidley vaccination centre last year do not have the resources to run a similar operation for the booster jab. The demands for their services are so much higher at the moment.
A neighbouring GP Federation has supported them set up pop-ups, i.e. bespoke set of dates in which the vaccinations will be done from the Sidley practice.
These pop-ups are not walk-in centres and can’t be booked on the national NHS system. Instead, Bexhill GPs are contacting their patient list to invite them to attend for their booster at Sidley (as they did when the vaccine programme first began).
It is important to note that those staffing the booster clinics are the same staff who are working in the GP surgeries all week so they are all working extremely hard to provide this extra service. In addition, there are a lot less volunteers now available as people have now returned to their regular jobs.
Bexhill PCN has now provided booster vaccinations to over 95% of all residents of care and nursing homes and those who are recognised as housebound (around 1200 individuals).
As of 1st December 2021, 65% of eligible patients in Bexhill have had their booster vaccination with support from both Crumbles Harbour Vaccination Centre, Eastbourne and King's Centre, Hastings.
Whilst our local NHS boosts capacity, how do I get my booster if I am eligible?
Please travel to an alternative site if possible or go to your local pop-up if you are not able to attend an alternative site when contacted to do so by your GP.
How can I travel to an alternative site if I do not have access to transport?
If you do not have access to transport but want to have your booster, please take advantage of the free transport scheme.
To book free travel to a vaccination session, please book your vaccination appointment or have confirmed plans to attend a walk-in session first.
You can call 01444 275008 to speak to a travel coordinator. The booking service is available between 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm Monday-Friday.
How is our local NHS going to meet the target to offer booster doses to all adults by the end of the month?
To reach 80% of the population with COVID boosters, Sussex Health and Care Partnership would need to do approximately 171,000 a week or 24,500 a day.
This is challenging but they are working with all vaccination teams and our health and care partners to understand how they can rise to this challenge and provide the increases in capacity.
Some of the measures they will be taking include:
- Opening current vaccination services for longer into the evening, or for additional days;
- Bringing in additional workforce as part of the national offer to help support our vaccination services to extend their opening;
- Provide a roving team from CCG staff to help to support housebound vaccination visits and other areas of delivery;
- Moving more local vaccination services onto the National Booking System so their appointments are visible on the website and via 119, compared to a local booking system.
How are housebound people being vaccinated?
For those who are housebound, their GP surgery will have identified them as such from their patient lists and they will be making house visits for vaccinations as soon as they have finished the local care home visits.