Yesterday evening, I joined a joint meeting with Oxfordshire Conservative MPs and our public health officials to discuss local vaccine and testing provision. It is vital that everybody in North Oxfordshire is able to access a booster.
With the government launching a national public health mission of offering every adult over the age of 18 a booster jab before the New Year, it is estimated that a 2.5x expansion in capacity is required. I was reassured to hear from our public health officials that they have a working strategy in place to meet this acceleration.
The approach is to support Primary Care Network (PCN) sites and community pharmacies across the county, extending opening hours and standing up more vaccination centres. The map below shows the active network today which will only increase. I was told that walk-in clinics have been temporarily suspended in Oxfordshire in order to prioritise pre-booked appointments. This is in line with NHS guidance.
The suspension of the 15-minute observation period following a jab will help to increase flow and therefore increase capacity across all sites. Additional supplies have arrived at our PCNs and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group staff are being redeployed. Oxfordshire County Council are also working with our local authorities’ partners to look at how we reach difficult to access groups.
I was told that 13,000 booster doses have been administered across Oxfordshire in the past couple of days. 1000 were administered in Banbury alone just yesterday. At this rate, the aim is to deliver approximately 230,000 vaccines across the county in three weeks.
I know that many constituents are finding it difficult to book an appointment through the national booking service at the moment. The reason for this is that our PCNs need time to catch-up and adjust to the increased demand. While it may appear slow to begin with, more appointments are being made available daily as more sites are starting to open-up.
Vaccination sites offering booster jabs this week in Banbury include Banbury Cross Health Centre, Grimsbury Community Centre (Hightown Surgery) and Woodlands Surgery. The Bicester Heritage Centre vaccination site also continues to operate.
The guidance for constituents is to keep checking for appointments on the national booking system as more become available every day. Some GP led vaccination sites will also contact patients directly for them to book appointments. It is important to not contact your GP about a booster appointment unless they reach out to you directly.
I will remain in close contact with local public health officials to offer my support and relay any concerns which are raised with me.