Volunteers to be at centre of COVID booster rollout for over-50s

Volunteers are set to be recruited to help ensure thousands of elderly people are able to receive a vital COVID booster in what has been described as the next big challenge to protect lives.

COVID boosters vaccines in over 50s started last month. Most people will get a call or text from their local GP-led site to get the jab, or will be invited by the National Booking Service.

But the issue set out by Mike Gogarty, director of public health for Essex, is the difficult nature of administering the preferred Pfizer dose.

Whereas Astra Zeneca is simple to administer, the Pfizer vaccine – which has been chosen as the preferred booster – has to be stored at -70C and made up on site.

It follows data showing protection from the Astra Zeneca jab against the Delta variant declines sharper than the protection offered by Pfizer.

It means that those housebound or living in care homes will most likely have to be taken to the large vaccination centres to receive the booster.​

Dr Gogarty told the Essex health overview and scrutiny committee on October 7: “We want to work very hard with the voluntary sector with friends, neighbours and families to get those people to the vaccination centres.

“We are meeting the NHS beginning next week to try to see how the Essex welfare service and voluntary sector groups can best step up and help people get to the vaccination centres wherever possible because that is the best way for those who are absolutely bedbound and in care and can’t be managed any other way get the vaccine booster.

“That is the big challenge for me.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) set out its plan for boosters for more than 30 million British adults last month.​

Dr Gogarty added: “The real issue is going to be these boosters.

“People are gagging for the boosters. They really want to get them.

“We’ll get the communications at the right time to make sure people are available and they understand the importance of the boosters and the decline in the effectiveness of Astra Zeneca over time and they need those boosters.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter