Frustrated Salford residents are being turned away from vaccine centres across the city despite being told they could get their jab as a walk-in.
The discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant lead to the government strengthening their covid-related guidelines. In an effort to slow the spread of this new variant, Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that face masks would become mandatory on public transport and in shops, and several countries would be added to the UK’s red travel list.
Along with the return of these measures, the Prime Minister also announced that the wait time between jabs for younger people will be slashed to 12 weeks and that those with weakened immune systems will be offered a fourth dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but the Government’s immediate plan now is to have offered all over-18s a third jab by the end of January next year.
In Salford however, residents have been denied their vaccines across the city with walk-in centres in Pendleton, Eccles and at Salford Royal turning them away after information online falsely stated these centres did not require a pre-booked appointment.
Bill Wilson was one such resident to have booster jab refused at a walk-in vaccination clinic in Pendleton.
“I’ve just wasted my time, I’ve come ten miles. I’ve done ten miles twice, there and back.”
Wilson, who is in the top priority age category, explained that before he decided to visit the Pendleton walk-in centre, he had called 119 to clarify that an appointment was not needed, he was told that Pendleton, Eccles and Salford Royal all contained clinics that did not require a booking for the shot.
However upon arriving, NHS staff asked him to return in an hours time as there were currently no vaccines available for walk-in patients. And after returning an hour later, he was met with the same response.
“I came back, just now, mid afternoon thinking that the one hour has gone, obviously, so I’ve turned up and they’ve put a sign out… if that had been out this morning, I’d needn’t have bothered coming back.”
And it seems that your age is not something that factors in when it comes to residents being turned away, with those in the youngest ages groups also going without.
Harry Marsh, 18, had travelled with a group of friends to a vaccination centre at Salford Royal, to receive their first dosage of the vaccine – they too not booking in advance.
He explained that there was no signage at the centre that mentioned a pre-booked appointment was needed and that he and his friends had gone out of their ways just to get there, only to be told that bookings were being prioritised, he said:
“It took us about 25 minutes to get here, for nothing. That’s like half an hour of our time we could’ve used doing something else, isn’t it!”
Despite this, vaccines are still being administered in Salford and not everyone missed out today.
Michelle Hillery, 38, was at the Eccles Leisure Centre – receiving her booster shot because it was the right thing to do, she said:
“We’ve all got to make this change and hopefully this is moving forward and we can get our lives back to some normality.”
She went on to say that she had booked an appointment beforehand and got her jab within 20 minutes of arriving. As well as this, she felt that with the return of masks and having heard that vaccines are in short supply in some areas, the public are reverting back to the initial fear exhibited in the early, panic-buying, days of the pandemic.
“Everyone’s getting a bit panicky now, because we’re back to this mask wearing from today (and) it’s a bit worrying if they’re running out of vaccines.”
Hillery also said that she had initially planned to bring her teenage daughter with her as a walk-in patient, so she could get her first dosage of the vaccine, but she now realises that she, more than likely, would not have got it as her daughter did not have a booking.
“I’ve got two children who are due a vaccine, my lads nearly 18 and my daughter’s nearly 16 and they’ve not had either of theirs yet!”
NHS Salford have since stated that, as supplies of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca covid jabs are lower than normal, the decision was made to prioritise those with pre-booked appointments over those who had turned up for the shot on the day. They also recommended that the most guaranteed way to get a vaccine is book through their GP or on the NHS website.
You can find your nearest Salford-based vaccine centre here before you book your own shot.