By Ciaran Duggan, Local Democracy Reporter
Calls have been made for more pharmacies to help with the rollout of the county’s coronavirus booster jabs.
Around 25 pharmacies in Kent and Medway have been distributing vaccines to thousands of patients.
This represents just seven per cent of the 320 pharmacies in the county.
The call comes despite staff shortages and growing workload pressures, such as carrying out non-essential tasks, which include patient satisfaction surveys.
Shilpa Shah, the chief executive officer at the Kent Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “We have workforce issues, but are pulling together to deliver essential patient services and Covid vaccinations at the same time.”
Pharmacies are one of several health organizations working hard to ensure that everyone aged 18 and over will be offered a booster vaccination by the target of January 31, which has been set by the government.
Hundreds of volunteers are supporting the effort, including Kent GPs and community groups.
Inoculations, mainly Pfizer doses, are being carried out at several locations, including Bluewater shopping centre, Ashford, Gravesend and Canterbury.
However, pharmaceutical bosses have called for more support to cope with limited resources in areas such as Dartford, Sittingbourne and Sheerness.
Shah added: “More pharmacies doing smaller amounts would be ideal.”
Latest figures show that 3.1 million doses have been distributed to the vast majority of Kent residents, including 497,554 third booster doses amid a growing concern around the Omicron variant.
Around 1.8m people live in the county. This week marks one year since the jabs rollout started in the UK.
The booster deployment continues, with jabs being offered to care home residents, those aged 40 or over, frontline health and social care workers and those who are extremely vulnerable, including the family they live with.
In addition, the time suggested between a second and booster dose is being changed from around six months to three months in the coming days.
Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says health staff are “tired” but remain “committed” to providing a successful vaccination rollout.
A CCG spokesman said: “There is ample capacity within Kent and Medway for the booster vaccination.
“We are continually reviewing provision of the Covid-19 vaccination to make sure there is enough capacity for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated.”
Households have been urged not to call pharmacies or GPs to enquire about the date of their jab, with residents to be contacted by letter, text or phone.
Shah said: “Please be patient. We will get the booster jab out as soon as we can.”