49 GP practices across Swansea Bay and Neath Port Talbot are working to deliver booster jabs, but because of the urgency caused by the swift rise of the Omicron variant, the region’s pharmacies have stepped up to the challenge. This leaves the remaining medical services free to deal with other health challenges.
Now 13 pharmacies in the Swansea area, and one in the Vale of Neath, have volunteered to help administer the booster programme. Health boards across Wales are urging everyone over the age of 18, who received their last jab three months or more ago, to book an appointment for a booster.
In an attempt to give a third vaccine dose to everyone eligible by the end of December, mass vaccination centres have been set up around the country. To make it easier for those who live far away and cannot arrange transport, temporary local centres have also been set up in shipping containers converted into medical rooms.
Swansea Bay’s Vaccine Equity Manager, Maxine Evans, said: “We send invites to people living within a certain radius of the pharmacies to begin with and, if we have slots still available, we go further out.”
“We are flexible and if people cannot get to the pharmacies because they live too far away and do not have transport, they can phone the booking office to change the appointment. But when we have been to the pharmacies and spoken to patients, they were really grateful and happy with the fact that it was local and easy for them to get the booster there.”
The elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and those who work with or care for vulnerable people are being urged in particular to come forward for the booster jab as soon as possible. Early research shows that a third dose of the Covid vaccine will provide 80-85% protection against the Omicron variant.
Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy said: “We decided to take part because we believe it’s important to help the health board get the population fully vaccinated as quickly as possible. We are located at the heart of the community so the patients find it easy to access.”
“We have good facilities, including a nice big car park right outside so the patients don’t have to walk very far, and our own dedicated consultation rooms where the vaccinations can take place in private.”
Whether it’s in a pub, a church, or a pre-used sea freight box, the main thing is that people are booking appointments and turning up to have a third jab, as the Omicron variant threatens the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. There are also calls for trained volunteers and paid staff to come forward and help with the rollout effort.