Jab cabs, booster buses and local initiatives including a walk-in clinic at V’s Punjabi Grill in Kent are helping to protect thousands of people from COVID as part of the NHS vaccination programme’s drive to increase uptake by making the vaccine as accessible for all as possible.
The ‘jab cabs’ are taking people to vaccine appointments in Birmingham and Manchester, where take-up has been lower than other areas, while shuttle bus services are operating in Surrey and Somerset.
In Gravesend, Kent, pharmacist brothers Rav and Raj Chopra who own popular restaurant, Punjabi Grill, are firing up their local community’s appetite for the vaccine by offering jabs with kebabs, after their father became unwell with COVID last year.
This comes on the back of the NHS offering vaccines at a record number of walk-ins this week, with 1,800 sites on the Grab A Jab website available for people to conveniently grab their life-saving jab.
The NHS has delivered more than 114 million doses of the COVID vaccine across England, including almost 31 million vital boosters.
NHS staff, volunteers and other partners are pulling out all the stops to make getting protected as easy and convenient as possible.
In Newcastle and London there are vaccine buses that bring the jabs to your door, while some local sites are also using support networks, such as in Brighton where the YMCA Youth Advice Centre are offering a buddy scheme for under 26s who need support booking, travelling to and attending their appointment.
Rav and Raj’s Punjabi grill is running alongside hundreds of pop-up sites across the country, with experts on hand to offer medical advice with a side order of spice, in what organisers hope will be a recipe for success in reaching groups who might not otherwise have come forward.
These initiatives come on top of the jabbing service provided to those who are housebound or care home residents.
There are a number of reasons why people may need help or support attending one of the around 3,000 vaccination sites in England, from not owning a car to not being able to afford a taxi, while others may need support because they are nervous, afraid of needles, or don’t speak English, for example. The NHS is as determined as ever to work with its partners to increase equity of access, with almost everyone living within 10 miles of a vaccine site.
GP and deputy lead for the NHS Covid Vaccination Programme, Dr Nikki Kanani, said: “Our NHS staff and fantastic volunteers have worked hard to deliver the largest and fastest vaccine drive in NHS history which is operating from around 3,000 site across the country.
“We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get their jab so we’re going into the homes of those who are housebound, care homes, and putting on these incredible transport offers in tandem with local authorities, volunteer organisations and of course the taxi and bus providers themselves.
“If anyone has not yet had their booster, or either of their first two doses, then please do come forward – you can even grab a jab with a kebab in Kent this weekend
“The evidence is clear that having two vaccinations does not give you enough protection from the Omicron strain so get boosted now”.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: “Our vaccine programme has been a phenomenal success thanks to the NHS, our dedicated volunteers and everyone who has come forward for their jab.
“The latest data shows that Omicron is in retreat but it’s not the end of the road – it was the jabs that have got us this far, and the jabs can keep us here too so please Get Boosted Now.”
Rav and Raj Chopra said: “Having suffered the debilitating effects of Covid-19 last year, dad strongly urged us to temporarily give up the day-to-day running of our pharmacies and dedicate our efforts to the NHS vaccine programme.
“So we’re making the most of our place in the community to offer people vaccine advice with a side of spice and jabs with kebabs, and would strongly urge though who haven’t already taken up the offer to come forward this weekend – we’re just one of the many walk-in sites in the South East, it’s never been easier to get your jab.”
Nottinghamshire and Blackpool are among the places offering free bus trips to those who need them, while there are more Jab Cab (free taxi) services available across the country, including in Liverpool, Sheffield, Swindon, Solihull and Cambridgeshire.
Meanwhile, in Sussex there are a range of free transport offers, which have so far helped more than 1,500 people get to and from their vaccination appointment, co-ordinated by Sussex Community Transport and Rother Voluntary Action.
As these services vary in each area, the best way to find out more is to go online and search for offers in your area or contact your local vaccination site council, or relevant volunteer organisations.
Local systems are able to help fund transport offers for those who need it most, with many CCGs working with local councils and local transport services in order to make these offers available.
Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said: “It is wonderful to see local businesses helping to protect their community in getting their life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.
“It is vital everyone who is eligible comes forward for their first, second and booster jabs as soon as we can as we learn to live with this virus.”
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The national vaccination campaign has brought our collective community spirit to the fore, with trusted local leaders and volunteers reaching out to those who are vulnerable or isolated, to answer questions and dispel any myths.
“By making it as convenient as possible for residents to get vaccinated, be it providing free transport to local sites, using vaccine buses to bring the jab to their door or just offering a reassuring chat, councils are using their unique relationship with the people they represent to boost uptake.
“Vaccination represents our only certain route out of this pandemic and a return to a more normal way of life. If you’re eligible for a jab and need help to get it, please contact your local council.”
Since the NHS in England made history by delivering the first COVID-19 vaccination outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan in December 2020, hard-working staff and volunteers have delivered more than 114 million vaccine doses to over 43 million people.
The NHS boosted capacity to expand the vaccine drive before Christmas by extending opening hours in every community and getting local GP teams to clinically prioritise services to free up capacity, as well as inviting around 700,000 people to move forward their appointment from six months to three months.
The NHS has also visited every care home in the country to offer residents a booster vaccine.
There are more than 3,000 vaccination sites across the country and jabs have been given at football stadiums, music festivals, places of worship, and even a curry house, as the health service aims to reach as many people as possible.
Any adult who tests positive for COVID is not able to get their next vaccine dose for at least 28 days, while children are advised to wait 12 weeks, in line with JCVI guidance.
All children aged 12 to 15 are eligible for a second dose of vaccine if it has been more than 12 weeks since their first jab. They can get this through the National Booking Service, locally through their GP, or via the schools’ programme.
The NHS is also inviting those aged 16 and 17 and at-risk 12-to 15-year-olds for a booster in line with updated guidance.