Just a few weeks ago, there were serious fears across the national media that the booster vaccination campaign might not get going, and that people might be unnecessarily exposed to cover over the winter months.
Not in Herefordshire, that's for sure. Such has been the appetite for COVID-19 booster jabs that there have been difficulties getting appointments. Residents have been sharing their frustrations with me about receiving vaccination appointments with GPs based miles away, at clinics far outside the county.
I have taken the matter up directly with the senior team at NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and with local GPs. They have assured me that there is no lack of vaccine supplies. No, the problem has simply been to manage the huge local demands on services that are already highly stretched.
In effect, there are three vaccine programmes under way at present. First is the rollout of booster vaccines, demand for which has been temporarily increased by the reduction in the gap required between jabs from six to five months. But then there is also the rollout of the original second COVID vaccines to younger age groups.
And finally, there is the need to vaccinate large numbers of the population against flu, whose impact was light last year due to lockdown, but expected to be significantly greater over the next few months. Taken together, that's a pretty tall order, at an already busy time of year. Little wonder the vaccination centres are at full capacity.
Appointments are listed on the National Booking System as the supply becomes available, but these places are being taken quite quickly. Hence some residents have been encouraged to get their jabs further afield. But I understand booster jabs can be booked currently through the National Booking System at Elgar House, and at Day Lewis Pharmacy in Hereford, Kington Medical Practice and Bromyard Pharmacy.
Overall, I am assured that the present delays are likely to be temporary, as the system responds and demand eases off. More pharmacies are coming on line, and vaccine staff will start to transfer over from schools as the school vaccination programme runs its course and starts to be wound down.
So it should not be long before we are through the worst, and Herefordshire is on target to complete boosters by early January, sooner than any other area in the Midlands. That would be quite an achievement.
First published in the Hereford Times, 18 Nov 2021