Harrogate joins push to get adults protected with booster jab as new Omicron variant threatens
A Harrogate health chief has stressed that vaccination remains the “first line of defence” against Covid as the Great Yorkshire Showground gears up to support a major new push on booster jabs.
Although Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust confirmed they have had no cases of the new Omicron variant yet, they already have measures in place should any be detected.
Dr Jacqueline Andrews, Chief Medical Director at the Trust, said: “We have seen that the booster vaccination programme has had a really big impact on cases so that is a really key message to get across, that it is really worth getting a booster jab.
“We are fully aware within the NHS that Covid is still here but the vaccination remains the first line of defence.”
The new Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation last week and is connected to travel in South Africa.
Although the full nature of its threat is still to be determined, Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the decision to re-introduce the rules on wearing face masks in shops and public transport and for secondary school students in communal settings.
Despite there only being a handful of cases of the new variant which have come to light in the UK so far, the Government has also now launched a new vaccination campaign to offer all adults in England a vaccination booster jab by January 31.
Although there are questions over the pace of the current jab campaign for over 50s and 12 to 15-year-olds, Harrogate MP Andrew Jones is among those hopeful that the new drive to increase the numbers of booster doses will negate the need for any further tightening of Covid rules.
Mr Jones said: “It’s too early to tell what sort of impact the new variant will have but we are all hoping, with the expansion of the existing successful vaccination programme and the new measures in place, we will not have to change our plans for Christmas”.
“In the face of the threat from a new variant we should take a precautionary approach to protect all the progress we have made.
“We should get our jabs, wear our masks, check our distances and ventilate our rooms not just for ourselves but to protect family, friends and colleagues.”
Boris Johnson also announced this week that the booster jab will be offered to all over-18s and the gap between the second dose is to be halved from six months to three to help speed up the programme to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
Although the precise danger of Omicron was, as yet, unclear, the new strain of the virus made getting the jab even more important, said Mr Jones.
“We need to get our booster jabs or, for those that haven’t been vaccinated at all yet, start the process.
“But we also need to wash our hands regularly, check our distances and wear a mask in crowded places. I know for some this is an inconvenience or something they even object to strongly but it is important.”
As part of the push on jabs, the Great Yorkshire Showground is to reopen as an appointment-only vaccination centre from Monday.
Whatever happens in terms of the Omicron variant in the future, Dr Andrews says the NHS is still expected to come under serious pressure this winter.
Hospitalisation numbers for Covid in Harrogate may be falling but Dr Andrews is encouraging members of the public to be responsible throughout the festive period.
“We are asking people to be sensible and try and keep the numbers coming to the hospital to a minimum,” she said.