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BOOSTER ROLL-OUT BEGINS

More than 500 patients received their Covid-19 booster at the Altrincham Health and Wellbeing Centre on Saturday and with the winter months approaching GPs are urging all those eligible for the top-up booster protection to take up the offer when invited.

Last week, the NHS invited more than one million people to get their Covid-19 booster jabs marking the start of the NHS vaccination programme’s new phase ahead of winter. Those who have had their second vaccine at least six months ago are eligible for the booster jab to increase their protection.

Dr Maz Sangha, Clinical Director of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network, which covers patients across five local practices, said: “The Covid-19 booster is the best way to protect yourself from becoming seriously ill from this brutal virus.”

Those eligible for the booster – having had their second vaccine more than six months ago – include:

  • people aged 50 and over
  • people who live and work in care homes
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • carers aged 16 and over
  • people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

People who are pregnant and in one of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose and eligible patients are again being invited in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance to ensure priority protection for those who need it most.

Dr Sangha, Clinical Director of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network which includes Altrincham Medical Practice, Park Medical Practice, St Johns Medical Centre, West Timperley Medical Centre and Shay Lane Medical Centre (Dr Kelman), said: “Our practices are working hard to ensure vaccine protection from Covid-19 is administered as swiftly as possible to those who need it: winter months are traditionally a tough time for our more vulnerable patients and defence against this virus is vital.”

Among those who received their Covid-19 booster in Altrincham’s Health and Wellbeing Centre on Saturday were two ladies in their 90s – Betty Thomas and Philippa Nichols – who said they were “delighted” to receive the vaccine.

According to JCVI guidance where “operationally expedient” the Covid-19 booster and influenza vaccine may be co-administered. But for many GP practices this isn’t logistically possible due to delayed flu supplies or patients having to wait until they are eligible for a booster six months after their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Dr Sangha explained: “Flu cases are forecasted to hit record numbers this winter so we are keen for our patients to be protected as swiftly as possible. Rather than patients delaying their flu vaccine while waiting to be eligible for the Covid booster, or delaying their booster while practices await flu supplies, we’re delivering the booster programme as a GP network at the Altrincham Health and Wellbeing Centre to eligible patients and patients are being invited separately for their flu vaccines as they’re supplied to individual GP practices. This enables patients to receive protection as soon as possible especially over winter. Nothing should delay the opportunity to protect a patient.”

Patients are asked not to contact their GP to arrange their booster vaccine.  The PCN’s patients will either get a call, text or letter from their GP led site.

Altrincham Healthcare Alliance PCN was the first GP network to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations to Trafford patients in December 2020: more than 38,000 Covid vaccinations have since been administered. Dr Sangha added: “The pressures on GPs and hospital services is absolutely immense as winter approaches, especially as locally Covid rates continue to rise. GP practices are rolling out the flu vaccine – 300 patients were vaccinated at St Johns Medical Centre this morning (Tuesday 28 September) and there’s 1,000 more being administered this weekend – the PCN is delivering the booster programme, and GP practices are continuing to see more patients than ever. We would like to thank our patients for their continued support at this busy time.”