The Daily Telegraph
St John volunteer shortage hits booster rollout
Charity urgently seeks thousands of people to help administer latest round of Covid vaccines
‘We are relying on goodwill, on those who want to do this from the goodness of their hearts’
‘We have evidence that they are not sending the right amount of vaccine being ordered’
ST JOHN AMBULANCE has warned of a vaccine volunteer shortage as the Covid booster rollout begins.
The charity is “urgently” seeking 5,000 volunteers to support the NHS rollout, noting that the wave of help that arose during the height of the pandemic had waned as coronavirus became less prevalent in society.
A spokesman said: “Back when coronavirus was right in the middle of people’s lives, a lot of people were furloughed, there were lockdowns, people were at home and they wanted to help and to do something with their time.
“Obviously now, people are back at work, there are fewer people to rely on. It is much harder to get volunteers. We are relying on goodwill, on those who want to do this from the goodness of their hearts.”
St John Ambulance volunteers will help administer Covid and flu vaccinations, putting in a minimum of two shifts a month. The NHS will this week invite more than four million people to come forward for jabs, with 26 million over-50s across England to be offered boosters over the coming months.
The programme will start in care homes today, with all over-75s being offered slots at pharmacies, GP surgeries and vaccination centres from Sept 12. However, the much praised “volunteer army” of supporters who gave their time to facilitate previous vaccine rollouts has dissipated.
With just days to go, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) is also appealing for volunteer responders to work as stewards at NHS vaccination sites in 55 local authority areas.
Steve Russell, NHS director of vaccinations and immunisations, last week urged people to come forward, noting that the “fastest and largest vaccine drive in NHS history” would not have been possible without the volunteers.
Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the RVS, said: “Any time you can offer at all will make an invaluable difference to the health of the most vulnerable people in your community this winter.”
Steward volunteers are needed to help out at vaccination sites across the country including pharmacies, GP surgeries and village halls. They will assist with non-clinical tasks, including administration, queue management, car parking and supporting those who need extra help.
Meanwhile, pharmacists have warned they do not have enough Covid vaccines. While the programme has been planned for months, the first dual vaccine that tackles both the original Covid virus and the newer omicron variant was only authorised weeks ago, and the second on Saturday.
The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), which represents more than 3,000 pharmacies, says chemists have not received sufficient stock to meet demand.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIMP, said pharmacies were placing orders but only receiving a fraction of what they required. She said she was worried patients would not return if they tried to get jabs only to find none available, affecting vaccine uptake.
The NHS insisted there are no issues with deliveries and no stock caps placed on individual centres. Dr Hannbeck suggested they must be “hallucinating”. “I don’t know if they are prioritising bigger vaccination sites or if there is a shortage but we have evidence that they are not sending the amount of vaccine being ordered,” she said.