The sessions, which are advertised daily on the States of Guernsey’s social media pages and local radio, are a way to ensure minimal doses of the vaccine are wasted, and to make the service accessible for people who, for one reason or another, cannot book an appointment.
Also, as long as the second dose is administered within an appropriate time, it is a way for people to have their second doses sooner than their scheduled appointment – although priority will be given to those having their first doses.
Jo Rocha, clinical lead at the community vaccination and health protection nurse at Public Health, said the team was operating at close to zero waste and wanted to keep it that way.
‘We won’t know until the day how many doses of the vaccine we have left over to use in the drop-ins, but we’ll let people know on social media which ones are available.’
The wait time necessary between doses varies depending on the vaccine. For Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca it is three and eight weeks, respectively, and for Moderna, when that becomes available locally, it will be four weeks.
‘It’s very rare, but we do sometimes have people not turn up for their appointments and we don’t want those doses to go to waste,’ Ms Rocha said.
‘The drop-ins are a chance to do that and they’re also available for people who can’t get through on the phone to book an appointment, for people whose first language is not English so they don’t feel confident booking over the phone, or for people who are a bit nervous and would rather just come in and get it done than have a forecast date in the calendar.’
The States would like representatives from foreign communities in the island to get in touch so that drop-in session details can be shared within those communities.
Ms Rocha anticipated that lots of people who had booked to go away in July would want to have their second jabs earlier so that they could take advantage of the test- and quarantine-free travel rules from the Common Travel Area from 1 July.
Yesterday’s drop-in session was the first and saw a steady flow of people. Some had appointments booked for later in the week or a couple of weeks from now and their changes of appointment were handled by reception lead Mark Finn and his team.
‘The vaccine centre is very slick so we’ll be able to cater for about 50 or 60 people in the hour-long drop-ins,’ he said.
‘Most people will want to have their second doses early for travel and we recognise that people are trying to get their lives moving again, so we’re trying to accommodate as many people as possible with vaccines to keep islanders safe.’
A couple of people who attended the drop-in were non-Guernsey residents who had their first doses elsewhere so were not on the mailing list for an appointment locally.
Mr Finn said one of the challenges was when people had their first dose in a place that did not issue proof of vaccine cards.
‘It’s important that everyone who comes in has some form of proof of their vaccination [whether that’s a card or confirmation from their GP], a valid form of photo ID and confirmation of their GY number.’
At the first drop-in, 21 doses of the vaccine were administered – six of which were first doses.