The Link Community Centre in Cumbernauld town centre is one of seven venues across Lanarkshire which have been selected to operate as coronavirus (COVID-19) booster vaccination centres over the coming months.
NHS Lanarkshire has confirmed that the facility, located at Bron Way in close proximity to Cornerstone House, Fleming House and Tryst Sports Centre, will be the main site where residents of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Northern Corridor are invited to receive COVID-19 booster vaccines as well as annual flu immunisations this autumn.
Airdrie Town Hall and Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility are the other chosen sites in North Lanarkshire, whilst bases in East Kilbride, Hamilton, Lanark and Rutherglen are being utilised for South Lanarkshire citizens.
With venues ratified, the health board has signalled its intention to work with regional transport coordinator Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to ensure that adequate public transport services are available for those attending vaccination centres. Craig Cunningham, South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Head of Commissioning and Performance, said:
“We have been working closely with our colleagues in North and South Lanarkshire Councils to plan for the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme. While all the details have not yet been confirmed, we wanted to share what we do know.
“We have confirmed seven sites across Lanarkshire for the next stage and we plan to also use these venues for the flu programme. These are in addition to a dedicated team for people who are housebound.
“In the meantime, we continue to encourage people to attend for their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. We are doing all we can to make sure attending for a vaccination is as easy as possible.”
The announcement follows on from The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)’s advice that a third booster coronavirus jab be offered to vulnerable people as of September this year.
Meanwhile, young people aged 16 and 17 years-old are being encouraged to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine by dropping in to Muirfield Community Centre (South Muirhead Road, Cumbernauld, G67 1AX) on Thursday 19 August, Friday 20 August, Tuesday 24 August or Wednesday 25 August any time between 8.15am and 5.15pm.
Furthermore, Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell and Alistair McCoist Complex in East Kilbride are facilitating vaccine drop-in centres every day from 8.15am to 8.30pm during August. Dr Mark Russell, Lead for the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Lanarkshire, commented:
“The COVID-19 vaccine is our best way out of this pandemic and we ask 16 and 17 year-olds now eligible to please come forward.
“They can attend any of our drop-in centres, although we expect them to be busy so there may be a wait at the clinic. We aim to have first doses delivered to this age group by the end of September.” Humza Yousaf, Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, added:
“We know that drop-in clinics make it easier for young people to fit getting vaccinated into their busy lives. I would urge all eligible young people to take up the offer of vaccination.”
NHS Lanarkshire’s COVID-19 vaccination drop-in clinics are open to adults aged 16 and over who have not had their first dose and those who are awaiting a second dose and their first dose was at least eight weeks ago.
Below, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub considers and answers some key questions in relation to the upcoming planned COVID-19 booster vaccination programme.
COVID-19 BOOSTER VACCINES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Who Will Be Offered a COVID-19 Booster Vaccine and When?
The JCVI’s advice is that people most at risk from coronavirus should be prioritised for a third dose of the vaccine. Whilst full details are to be released, the first people to be offered a booster dose are likely to be all adults aged 70 and above, adults who are clinically extremely vulnerable (those shielding), people living in residential care homes, frontline health and social care workers and other adults who are immunosuppressed.
The second group to be offered a booster dose is likely to be all adults aged 50 and over, all adults who are eligible for the flu jab and who are at increased risk from COVID-19 and adults who live with someone who is immunosuppressed. It is expected that the booster vaccination programme will commence in September and run through the autumn.
Plans for vaccinating other groups, such as healthy adults under the age of 50, have not been laid out yet. As these groups are due to receive their second dose by late summer, the benefits of vaccinating them is still being researched.
The JCVI has stressed that plans for the booster programme may change once more data showing how long protection from existing vaccines last becomes available.
Why Might Booster Vaccines Be Needed?
A key reason why booster vaccines are being introduced is that it is still unknown how long the jabs offer protection from coronavirus for. While initial studies show protection is still strong at least six months after two doses of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna jabs, there is no evidence on how long immunity lasts beyond this. Hence, a booster dose may be needed to ensure those at higher risk from coronavirus, especially people who were prioritised at the start of the vaccine programme, have enough protection going into winter.
Moreover, a booster programme could offer extra protection against variants that have resistance to existing vaccines. The vaccines being given in the UK are showing good protection against several variants that are currently circulating. This may mean that a top-up (a third dose of an existing vaccine) is adequate to continue targeting existing variants.
However, a new or updated formula that specifically targets new variants may be required at some point in the future. This is a similar approach to the one taken with the flu jab each year, where the vaccine is updated to respond to changes in the flu virus. Indeed, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently commented that the vaccination programme is likely to continue for some time, and may even become a feature of life.
Which Vaccine(s) Will Be Used For The Boosters?
Clinical trials are currently underway to compare seven different options for use as COVID-19 booster vaccines. To this end, studies are evaluating whether a third vaccine dose given 10 to 12 weeks after the second dose increases protection against coronavirus.
Investigations are also exploring the effectiveness of mixing different vaccines, with some research participants receiving a different vaccine for their booster dose to their first two doses. The vaccines which are being assessed include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac. Findings from these studies will help inform recommendations for the planned booster programme over the coming weeks.
As has been the case with the current vaccination programme, it is anticipated that the booster programme will offer people under the age of 40 an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is because the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to rare blood clots in a very small number of people.
Where and How Will I Get a Booster Vaccine?
As previously highlighted, most eligible people living in Greater Cumbernauld will be invited to receive booster vaccines at the Link Community Centre (Bron Way, Cumbernauld G67 1EW). Those living in other areas will be invited to their nearest vaccination centre.
Pharmacies and GP surgeries in Greater Cumbernauld are also expected to be heavily involved in administering the COVID-19 booster vaccine. In a similar vein to the current vaccination programme, NHS Lanarkshire will contact individuals with an appointment when it is their turn to be vaccinated.
Will Booster Vaccines Be Given At The Same Time As The Flu Jab?
Most people on the priority list for a booster vaccine are also eligible for a flu jab and will be strongly advised to have the flu vaccine this year. There have been reports that the flu jab and COVID-19 booster vaccine could be offered at the same appointment, but this has not been confirmed as yet.
Thanks to social distancing and other measures taken to stop the spread of coronavirus, flu levels were extremely low last winter. As a result, it is expected people will have a lower level of immunity against the flu this winter, and there are concerns that flu levels could be very high. Precautions such as hand-washing and wearing masks can limit the spread of any airborne virus, including COVID-19 and flu.
With the Link Community Centre being employed for the vaccination programme this autumn, a number of CultureNL bookings will be re-housed at Cornerstone House (1 Esk Walk, Cumbernauld, G67 1BZ) over the coming weeks and months.
Latest information updates on NHS Lanarkshire’s COVID-19 booster vaccination programme can be obtained by visiting www.nhslanarkshire.scot.nhs.uk/covid-19-vaccine.