As you will be aware from all the news reports, a massive vaccination push is once again underway in Buckinghamshire, to protect people from the worst effects of the widely spreading Omicron variant of Covid.
The early scientific data about Omicron tells us that getting your booster jab three months after your second dose is absolutely key to giving a good level of protection against severe disease from Covid. Anyone aged 18 or over who had their second dose two months ago or more can now use the national booking system to make an appointment for a booster either online or by calling 119. You can get your booster jab three months on from your second dose.
A huge effort is underway in Buckinghamshire to open up as many vaccine sites as possible to offer boosters and first and second doses. We are building capacity to administer nearly 50,000 vaccines per week – which is enough to meet demand. There are many already open in locations across the county, all offering appointments via the national booking system, many with longer opening hours, some extending into the evening. Walk-ins have currently been suspended to help the NHS offer as many vaccines as possible and to help manage the smooth running of the vaccine centres.
Here in Bucks we have large vaccine sites such as the Guttmann Centre at Stoke Mandeville Stadium alongside many smaller sites including some local health centres and pharmacies.
We currently have local vaccine centres and pharmacy sites in:
Chess Medical Centre
Some of these locations have more than one vaccine centre.
When you book, you will be offered an appointment at the closest site to you that has availability (so you might be closer to a site outside Buckinghamshire). You can find out more about our local vaccination sites on our website – please note that this info is regularly being updated.
We still need volunteers to come forward to play their part in this huge effort – if you want to come forward you can volunteer at this link.
First and second doses also available
I also really want to underline the importance of getting your first and second dose of vaccine if you haven’t already. We know for example that uptake is lower amongst pregnant women locally, but we also know that having the vaccine offers the best possible protection for both mother and baby. If you want to find out more about the vaccine and how it works please use a reliable source of information such as the NHS website. There is specific information for pregnant women and people hoping to conceive, which I hope will reassure anyone with concerns.
You can book a first or second dose of the vaccine at any time, again by using the national booking system.
We also know that, understandably, demand on the system is extremely high but a huge effort is underway to build more capacity into the local system every day. You may be placed in a queue when trying to book online, but please be patient.
The current situation in Buckinghamshire
We are again seeing a rise in Covid cases in all parts of the county and will be able to determine in the coming days whether the Omicron variant is now dominant here. We know we’ve seen a rise of about 10% in case numbers across the whole of Buckinghamshire in the space of a week.
As demand is expected to increase dramatically over the next few weeks in our hospitals, I would like to encourage families of patients to help support their relatives coming home from hospital.
When there are delays in discharging patients who no longer need medical care but a bit of additional support at home, it leads to bed shortages and, consequently, lengthy ambulance waits at the ‘front door’ of Emergency Departments. This, in turn, means paramedics are less able to respond to 999 calls in the community.
We know that recovery support and care for patients is best delivered at home in a more comfortable and familiar setting so we are working closely with our colleagues in the Health Service across the county to try and get as many patients home safely from hospital as soon as possible.
If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is well enough to go home but is waiting to be discharged with home care and community health support, you may be able to help them to get home more quickly if you and your family are in a position to support them at home. If you can help, please speak to the ward manager or nurse in charge.
Taking a cautious approach
We know we are in another period of considerable uncertainty and challenge – right on top of Christmas. For now, the best advice I can give is to use your own judgement and exercise caution when meeting up with others in the current situation. We all know how the virus transmits and we all know how to mitigate the risks and to make our own choices on that. Meeting in the fresh air, ventilating indoor spaces, regular hand washing and using lateral flow tests before meeting others are all measures I would urge everyone to take, to protect your own Christmas plans.
As ever, if you do develop Covid symptoms, it’s really important to isolate and book a PCR test.
I wrote to you at the end of last week too about the current guidance so please make sure you are up to date on the new rules that have recently been introduced, such as the need to wear a face covering in a number of indoor spaces and on public transport (unless exempt). There’s also the need to show your Covid status to get into a nightclub and some other venues. The current guidance is on the Government’s website.
I know this is a concerning time for many, but with the vaccines we now have, we are still always making progress against Covid in the longer term. In the meantime, please stay safe and well, enjoy Christmas and I’ll keep you all updated as things develop.
Leader, Buckinghamshire Council.