Thousands of Britons face a postcode lottery to get Covid jabs as figures show some are travelling more than 50 miles for a booster shot
Thousands of people are facing a postcode lottery to get Covid jabs, despite fresh pleas to receive a booster before Christmas.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said it is ‘absolutely crucial’ for people to ‘top up’ their immunity before seeing loved ones over the festive season.
But analysis by The Mail on Sunday has revealed a desperate struggle to access walk-in centres, and some are having to travel more than 50 miles for a booster shot.
Many have decided they do not want to wait to be contacted by the NHS, amid fears of the Omicron variant. But they have struggled to get through on the 119 booking line, or been told there are no nearby appointments available.
Kate Barber, 36, from Littlehampton in West Sussex, said she needs a booster as a health condition puts her at high risk from Covid.
The government is urging people to get their booster jab as soon as they are available to prevent the spread of the dreaded Omicron Covid-19 variant
The NHS has rapidly rolled out a booster jab scheme to cope with the demand from people seeking to avoid catching Covid-19
She tried twice to book by phone, but says: ‘I was told there weren’t any appointments close to me. I gave up in the end, looked on the NHS website and found no options in Sussex at all.’ Lesley Quirk, from Chichester, also in West Sussex, said she was being forced to travel 20 miles for hers despite ‘living three minutes away from a booster centre’, which was fully booked.
Meanwhile, some residents in Eastbourne, East Sussex, have been told to make their way to Orpington, Kent – some 54 miles away.
And even Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don, 66, who lives outside Leominster in Herefordshire, complained last week on Twitter: ‘The Government is urging us all to get boosters – and I would love to. But although I have been eligible for a month I have had no contact at all and there is no booster programme in Herefordshire.’
Despite this, Ministers are confident they will be able to offer all over-18s a jab by the end of January. More than a million booster appointments were booked in England last week.
Pharmacies now form the mainstay of the programme, with 1,500 offering jabs, while last Wednesday Boris Johnson promised temporary vaccination sites would be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’.
Last night, the tally was just under 20 million boosters (19.8 million), 372,557 of which were given on Friday. Nonetheless, the NHS needs to be regularly jabbing more than half a million a day to meet the self-imposed January 31 deadline.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Christmas is around the corner and it’s crucial that everybody who is eligible gets their booster jab to top up their immunity before spending time with loved ones.
‘While our brilliant scientists learn more about the new Omicron variant, we need to do everything we can to strengthen our defences and vaccines are the best way to do that.
‘We all have a role to play – so roll up your sleeves and get protected as soon as you can.’
In response to the Omicron variant, the Government announced it was extending the offer of a booster to all adults, and the time between the second and third jabs is to be cut from six months to three.
An NHS spokesman said: ‘There are almost 3,000 NHS vaccination sites across England, more than at any point in the rollout, meaning about 99 per cent of people live within ten miles of a vaccination site, while extra hospital sites will come online as we enter this next phase of the programme.’