'Get your Covid booster jab', appeals Lancashire hospital doctor

A senior Lancashire medic is urging people who are eligible for a Covid vaccine booster to take up the offer in order to help protect themselves and the NHS this winter.

Monday, 27th September 2021, 9:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 9:54 pm
Lancashire emergency medicine consultant Andy Curran receives his Covid booster jab - and is urging other eligible county residents to do the same (image: Neil Cross)

Dr. Andy Curran made the call as the booster programme across the region gathers pace, with invites going out via text and post to those who are being recommended to receive a third jab to top up their immunity to the virus.

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The over-50s, anybody living or working in a care home, those aged 16 or over with conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to Covid and people living with individuals with suppressed immune systems are amongst the groups being offered the additional shot – provided it is at least six months since their second jab.

Frontline social care and NHS staff are also in line for the booster, with injections being given out to the latter cohort at Chorley Hospital from today (Monday) and the Royal Preston later this week.

The general public can make an appointment at a local mass vaccination centre, GP practice or pharmacy once they have received their invitation to do so.

Speaking shortly after receiving his own booster, Dr. Curran – a consultant in emergency medicine at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) – said that it was important to remember that Covid is still “very much around”.

He warned that, when combined with non-virus related pressure on the NHS, the disease could make for another tough few months ahead for the health service.

“Every year, winter provides a huge challenge for everyone working in health and social care – and we should all do what we can to try and prevent it from being as bad.

“One thing we can do is [to get] our Covid vaccine booster when we get called up for it.

“Our hospitals still have a large number of people in [them] with Covid. If we could prevent those people from needing to come into hospital by staying well, having had their boosters, it then means we could help free up hospital beds for those [patients] with other conditions.

“Having been through the pandemic, a lot of people are struggling with their ongoing health. They have not had the usual preventive care that we were able to give within our community settings.

“We are fully open and here for people…when they need us. But let’s do what we can to try and prevent people from needing [hospital admission],” appealed Dr. Curran, who is also the medical director the Lancashire and South Cumbria integrated care system (ICS).

As of 21st September, there were 31 patients with Covid being cared for by LTH – roughly half the level of the most recent peak between mid-June and mid-July. However, Covid patient numbers at the trust have not dipped into single figures since the first week of June.

Research published last month found that, between five and six months after a second Pfizer jab, its effectiveness at preventing Covid-19 infection dropped from 88 percent to 74 percent, according to analysis of data collected in the UK’s ZOE Covid study.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, there was a reduction in effectiveness from 77 percent to 67 percent within between four and five months of a second dose

According to the Reuters news agency, the principal investigator for the study, Tim Spector, warned that in a worst-case scenario, protection could fall below 50 percent for older people and healthcare workers by this winter. They were the groups who were amongst the first to be offered jabs when they became available last December.

The booster jabs will mostly be shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines – irrespective of the type people received for their first and second injections.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Orr, clinical director for pathology at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that healthcare professionals were worried about a “double whammy” of other seasonal respiratory viruses making an unwelcome return having been suppressed by social distancing measures and lockdown last winter and because natural immunity against them is short-lived.

For that reason, he is also asking people eligible for the free flu jab to take it up.

“There is new guidance that came out last week [stating that] that there are no issues with getting the [flu and Covid booster] vaccines together – one could be given in one arm and one could be given the other.

“The main thing is to get these vaccines [administered] for the winter season,” Dr. Orr added.

The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to people who are, or will be, aged 50 or over by the end of March 2022, pregnant women, those with a range of health conditions – including asthma and diabetes – people who are the main carer for an older or disabled person, and frontline NHS and social care workers.

Anybody over 16 can also pay to have a flu jab at selected pharmacies.