NHS website sends residents of Sheppey to Southend for Covid-19 recall

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People living in part of Kent who want to get their booster shots face a 128 mile round trip to Southend, according to the official NHS booking site.

Residents of the Isle of Sheppey are being directed to clinics in Essex for their third dose of the Covid vaccine.

Purity in Southend ‘as the crow flies’ and how the rest of us must take it. KM Graphics

As the crow flies, the Southend Civic Center walk-in clinic is only 7.6 miles from Sheerness, but that ignores the mouth of the Thames estuary that separates the two cities.

According to Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson, there are three clinics in Swale for injections – Superdrug and Asda in Sittingbourne and the Leysdown Pharmacy in Sheppey – but none were listed on the NHS booking site this week.

Retiree John Twiselton, 73, of Oak Avenue, Minster, ended up having his third shot in Canterbury on Saturday. He asked, “Why can’t Swale put the same system in place?

“There were 10 production lines in Canterbury. During the week, it was open to everyone without a reservation.

“It was supposed to be booked only on weekends, but they also allowed people in. They clearly had spare capacity and are open every day.”

Sheppey retiree John Twiselton had to travel to Canterbury to get his Covid-19 booster shot
Sheppey retiree John Twiselton had to travel to Canterbury to get his Covid-19 booster shot

Mr Henderson said: “I have urged the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group to provide more locations as soon as possible.”

Mr Henderson, also 73 and living in Sheppey, added: “My wife booked her vaccination in Leysdown but I was unable to do so.

“I can only ask voters to be as patient as I am at this time. I can assure you that everyone will be able to receive a booster shot. Our time will come.”

Mr Twiselton said: “I was in contact with my operation and they did not know when they would receive more vaccines.

“It is ridiculous for Kwasi Kwarteng (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) to urge people to get a booster shot when there are not enough centers nearby .

Sittingbourne MP and Sheppey Gordon Henderson
Sittingbourne MP and Sheppey Gordon Henderson

Leysdown is offering vaccinations for the end of November at the earliest. Nowhere else in Swale offers booster dates.

“There is a lot of availability in Medway and Canterbury where you can have your booster any day. The same applies to Southend!”

He added: “I’m sorry for the people on the island who don’t have car transport to reach the towns of Medway or Canterbury. There is something wrong with the distribution system.

“When you go to the NHS vaccine website, distances to vaccination centers are measured as the crow flies, which is why Southend appears.”

When we typed in Sheerness, the first five locations were all in Essex. The next closest was Leybourne followed by Canterbury. There were no sites highlighted in Medway or the Isle of Grain where some islanders were forced to get their first and second jabs.

Closest Covid vaccination center to Sheppey?  It will be Southend ...
Closest Covid vaccination center to Sheppey? It will be Southend …

Mr Twiselton said this could explain why the UK’s vaccination program is lagging behind the rest of Europe, despite Britain being one of the early leaders.

He added: “The rise in infection and death rates in the UK is now becoming frightening. Western European countries are doing much better in both cases.”

To be eligible for a booster, patients must wait six months and one week (190 days) after receiving their second injection of Covid-19.

The NHS says it is contacting people by letter, text or phone. People are advised not to call their GP but to use the national reservation website or call 119.

On Monday, the government announced it was setting up “hundreds of walk-in sites across the country” to offer booster shots as part of the NHS ‘”Grab-a-Jab” campaign.

“Almost everyone registered with a general practitioner lives within 10 miles of a fixed vaccination site.”

So far, more than seven million people in England have received the dose of life-saving supplement, including 1.2 million in the south-east.

The official NHS statement also boasted: ‘There are more clinics distributing vaccines now than at any time during the program, including pharmacies, GP offices and other community sites.

“Almost everyone registered with a general practitioner lives within 10 miles of a fixed vaccination site.”

Those eligible for a recall can use the NHS online ‘walk-in finder’ to choose ‘the most convenient location’ without an appointment.

The centers also offer vaccinations to young people aged 12 to 15.

Canterbury NHS Covid-19 vaccination center installed in a sea scout room
Canterbury NHS Covid-19 vaccination center installed in a sea scout room

A spokesperson for the NHS Kent and the Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which plans and pays for county health care, said: “We are working with providers in Swale to set up walk-in clinics for vaccinations from Covid-19 reminder which, until recently, were bookable appointments alone.

“Once these are finalized, they will be added to the CCG National Awareness website and immunization pages. “

He confirmed that the bookable services available at Swale were at Superdrug, Sittingbourne; Leysdown Pharmacy, Sheppey and Asda Pharmacy, Sittingbourne and noted that all sites can administer the first, second and booster doses.

He added: “Walk-in clinics are added to the grab-a-jab site and CCG pages throughout the week. More walk-in clinics at Medway are expected to go live later. this week.”

“Ten new sites for residents of Swale, all in Medway or Maidstone”

He said 10 bookable clinics were available for residents of Swale at: Rochester and Lordswood Healthy Living Center, St Mary’s Medical Center in Strood, Boots the chemist, Chatham, Cliffe Woods Pharmacy, Rochester, Sturdee Avenue Pharmacy in Gillingham, Paydens at Larkfield, Pharmacy2u Maidstone, Lawsat Pharmn in Higham, Pharmacy 1st, Gillingham and Bryant Road Pharmacy, Rochester.

But Mr Twiselton fired back and said: ‘It defies belief that the next 10 walk-in centers will be in Medway or Maidstone.

“What’s wrong with using Appleyard at Sittingbourne or Friendship House, Borough Hall or Trinity Church on Sheppey?”

“The Canterbury vaccination center I visited was at Sea Cadet HQ.

Swale has one of the most deprived areas in Kent associated with an aging and growing population.

For the latest news and advice on the coronavirus, click here.

Read more: All the latest from Sheppey


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