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Vaccine Volunteers Called To Return To Jabs Frontline As PM Pledges To Hit 1m Boosters A Day

Vaccine Volunteers Called To Return To Jabs Frontline As PM Pledges To Hit 1m Boosters A Day

Boris Johnson has pledged to offer all adults their booster jab by the end of the year.

4 min read

An urgent call has gone out to vaccine volunteers who trained with St John Ambulance to give their time to help with the booster roll out before the end of the year after Boris Johnson pledged to hit one million jabs a day.

As the demand soars for a third coronavirus vaccine, the medical charity is calling on every trained vaccinator to do two six-hour shifts to reach what they describe as the government's "ambitious target".

Around 30,000 people volunteered in the winter of 2020/2021 through St John Ambulance (SJA) for the first round of jabs and they will be written to by England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, to encourage them to take part in the "Herculean effort" of the booster project. 

On Sunday night Boris Johnson said he would bring the booster campaign forward by a month to offer every adult a vaccine by the end of December. This would equate to around one million adults a day.

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson recognised the one million figure but said the government hadn't set a daily target for jabs and there would be fluctuations in total figures per day. They want to ensure anyone who is eligible can get the jab.

The charity’s Head of Community Response, Adam Williams, said they got notification from the Department for Health and Social Care that they would need to significantly ramp up the vaccinations only last night but they are confident it can be met.

"We've had to go straight to the fifth gear of ramping up those plans that were already in place [for the booster jabs] but the need has become more urgent now. This is an emergency situation. We want to protect people over Christmas," said Williams.

"We were lucky we were already ramping up [plans] but last night and this morning we've had to accelerate things and ask people to come forwards a lot quicker. It's certainly an ambitious target. I don't think anyone underestimates the effort that's going to have to go into this.

"I do think [the target] can be reached. There will have to be sacrifices but it's right to make sure that the NHS isn't overwhelmed. Whilst it is aspirational I do think it's achievable...but it's going to be challenging to reach that."

St John Ambulance is the NHS' provider of clinical vaccination volunteers, while the Royal Voluntary Service provides stewards to staff vaccination centres.

In a letter to the SJA volunteers, Professor Van-Tam said: “You were a huge part of this achievement but now we need your help again to deliver booster vaccinations at a real rate of knots.

“It’s going to require a Herculean effort and I am asking you personally to be a part of it by undertaking vaccinator shifts as soon as you possibly can."

To date, the greatest number of jabs that have been delivered in a day is 800,000, and the most successful week saw 500,000 jabs a day delivered on average.

All vaccination volunteers have been emailed with more details of how to book shifts. However Williams said he is keen to avoid burnout from volunteers who have already given so much during the pandemic.

He said it was unclear whether the services would be running on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but in theory they are a 24/7 charity. There "has to be a balance of giving people some downtime", he suggested, because this intensified programme of jabs will continue into well into January and February 2022.

"We cannot burn people out at this stage," he said.

It was also announced today that 750 members of the Armed Forces have been made available to support the NHS, the Department of Health and Social Care and Scottish Government to accelerate the booster campaign.

Of that around 50 personnel will provide planning support to NHS England, 41 planners will deploy to NHS regions across England and 10 logistics experts will be based at NHS England’s headquarters in London. Pharmacists are also expected to play a huge role in the campaign.

However there is concern that the scale of the booster programme will put strain on other services as nursing staff will have to be deployed to help with the national effort.

The Royal College of Nursing, General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said: “The rapid spread of the new variant means the expansion of the booster programme is the right thing to do.

“However, we are concerned about the scale and pace of this expansion, given these same nurses are already facing huge demands under existing unsustainable pressures in every part of the UK health and care system."

GPs across the country were scrambling today to work out how they will be involved in the booster programme, as in small GP surgeries offering the vaccine takes one doctor a day out of their regular work. 

Health secretary Sajid Javid said some routine services are expected to stop during this period. 

The government has said in the past few weeks the NHS wanted to recruit 10,000 vaccinators and they are in the middle of hiring staff.

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