Sporting venues, shopping centres and Christmas markets are being transformed into COVID vaccination sites this weekend as NHS staff seek to protect as many people as possible from the powerful new Omicron strain.
With COVID causing havoc with weekend football fixtures fans can pick up a jab at grounds including Liverpool’s Anfield, Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge and Wembley.
Sandown Park, Bath, and Chelmsford City racecourses are also joining in the race to get jabs in arms across the weekend as the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in health service history, continues to expand.
And people can get protected while enjoying seasonal fun at sites including the Christmas Market at Chester Cathedral and the Liverpool Christmas Ice Festival.
Shoppers can also grab a jab at Bluewater in Kent and Oxford Street – where there will be a vaccine bus parked on Old Cavendish Street.
And shoppers at Merseyway Shopping Centre, Stockport can get jabbed at One Stockport Hub over the weekend.
In all, NHS staff will be vaccinating at around 2,900 sites over the weekend with jabs available around the clock at London’s first 24 hour vaccination clinic at Morris House Group Practice on Lordship Lane in Haringey, a 24 hour pharmacy at Shady Lane, Birmingham, and Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove, which is offering jabs 24 hours a day right up until Christmas Eve.
NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “With Omicron cases soaring and two doses of vaccine not providing the protection we need it is vital to get a booster – for you, your family and your friends.
“From stadiums to racecourses and mobile buses to Christmas markets, the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in our history, is pulling out all the stops to make it easier than ever.
“Thanks to the hard work of our health service staff and brilliant volunteers we have already delivered record boosters so far this week but we want to keep up the momentum so if you haven’t taken up the offer yet get boosted now”.
All eligible people aged 18 and over can now use the National Booking Service to make an appointment to get their jab at one of thousands of centres across the country.
Every adult is eligible for a jab three months after their second following updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on 29 November.
More than 21 million booster jabs have been delivered by the NHS in England so far.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We’re rapidly ramping up our booster programme to make it as easy as possible for people to get boosted now.
“You can grab a jab from a shopping centre whilst you’re buying presents, or at a Christmas market whilst you’re enjoying the festivities, or at a sports stadium whilst you see the grounds first-hand.
“Thank you to all the NHS staff and volunteers making this possible and enabling many sites to open 7 days a week. A record number of people have been boosted over the last few days – so let’s keep going and make sure everyone is getting that vital protection this winter”.
UK Health Security Agency data shows that two doses of a COVID vaccine are not enough to stop people becoming unwell from Omicron, but a third booster prevents around 75% of people getting any COVID symptoms.
In response to the threat of the new variant, many vaccination sites are operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week and in every community there should be slots available at least 16 hours a day – with some sites extending to 24-hour operation to make it easier for people who work shift patterns.
The NHS launched the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in health service history, with Margaret Keenan receiving the first jab on 8 December 2020, and in just over a year the NHS has administered over 102 million doses of the vaccine.
NHS staff will also be redeployed so that they can focus on protecting the entire country as quickly as possible and military aid will be in place in every region across the country to support NHS staff with planning for the extra vaccinations.
GP teams will be asked to clinically prioritise their services to free up maximal capacity to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme, alongside delivering critical appointments such as cancer, urgent and emergency care.
The NHS is asking people to be patient and consider the herculean effort we are asking of staff.