Get your Covid booster jab now – this is the urgent message from North Yorkshire’s leaders as the county braces itself for a surge in Omicron infections
A major countywide multi-agency operation has been stepped up into the Christmas and New Year period to get Covid booster vaccines into everyone who is eligible.
“Some people might be tempted to put off having their booster until they have got through their Christmas and New Year festivities,” said Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, which includes the county and district councils, the NHS and emergency responders. “So we are asking everybody to go and get a jab as a priority. If they want to do one thing to help each other at Christmas, this should be it.
“The booster is critical in protecting the population against the impact of Omicron and in protecting the NHS from being overwhelmed.”
Walk-in sites have now been set up across the county, including pharmacies, with one pharmacy in Knaresborough even open for boosters on Christmas Day.
Fire and Rescue officers have been supporting vaccine delivery, driving up and down North Yorkshire ensuring vaccines are where they need to be and at the right time.
So far, 75 per cent of eligible residents have taken up the offer of a booster jab but more than 70,000 have still not come forward.
“Please avoid being lulled into a false sense of security that things are better up here than in London, which is currently the epicentre of the Omicron outbreak,” said Richard Flinton.
“We are expecting the peak for North Yorkshire during January. That means the more people who get their booster jabs now, the better placed our county will be to deal with it. Please act now, to buy time and to protect yourselves, your loved ones and the County’s businesses and public services.”
He said partner agencies were all involved in surge planning and that each and every resident and every business could play their part in the fight against the variant. He asked employers to consider giving staff who had not taken up a booster jab time during the day to go and get one.
He also asked people to check up on friends, neighbours and family who might be isolated or vulnerable over Christmas. He said: “We must all do what we can and pull together to support and protect each other.”
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, said that North Yorkshire’s Covid rates, now more than 650 per 100,000 in Selby, were rising rapidly in every district, though still below the national rate.
She said: “These are worryingly high rates and so it is imperative we also take steps to protect each other by wearing face masks when required; keeping rooms ventilated and open to fresh air when meeting indoors and washing hands regularly.
“Every precaution will help us to keep safe and enjoy Christmas together.
“We want people to enjoy Christmas, and to take precautions and to remain vigilant and considerate throughout.”
Amanda Bloor from the NHS in North Yorkshire and York said progress across the region demonstrated that people were taking the Omicron threat seriously: “We are making great progress across North Yorkshire and York in delivering the enhanced Covid-19 booster roll-out.
“Already we have vaccinated almost three quarters of our eligible population and work will continue throughout the Christmas and New Year period to ensure that all those eligible have been offered their vaccination by the end of the year and we hope everyone who can will come forward.
“If you are in your 28-day post-Covid recovery period and have not been able to receive your jab yet, vaccination clinics will continue into 2022 to allow those who have missed out or who are not eligible until 2022 to receive their booster.”
The Omicron surge is already disrupting services as increasing numbers of the workforce are infected.
Amanda Bloor sent out a plea for members of the public to treat the hard-pressed NHS workforce with respect. She said: “The NHS in North Yorkshire is already experiencing high demand and Omicron will undoubtedly lead to staff absences and the service will be severely strained as we go into winter, traditionally a time of greatest pressure.
“Some leave is being cancelled to deal with the pressures, therefore I urge people to be patient and respectful of staff and to use the service wisely.”