Norfolk patients offered Covid jabs in Brighton
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
People in Norfolk and Waveney are being told to go as far away as Brighton for a Covid jab, amid issues with "availability" of vaccines.
And Norfolk's four large-scale vaccination centres have reduced opening to every other day as they wait for supplies to pick up.
Dozens of patients across the area have reported being offered jabs in far-flung locations such as the East Sussex seaside resort in recent days.
A drive to Brighton from Norwich is a 350-mile round trip.
Those attempting to book appointments via the national booking system have also seen Colchester, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Boston suggested as alternatives.
All are at least an hour and a quarter away from Norfolk's county town.
Norfolk itself has four large-scale vaccination centres - in Norwich, King's Lynn, Attleborough and North Walsham - but they are increasingly being omitted from the booking site.
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Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, which runs the large sites, said the number of appointments offered was "partly based on the expected availability of vaccine".
Addressing concerns over a lack of vaccine availability in Norfolk, the trust said new slots were added on a frequent basis.
A spokesman said: "Anyone in a priority group invited to have their vaccine can look for an appointment at a time and location that’s convenient to them through the national booking service.
"New appointments are regularly added to the system as they become available, and alternatively, people can choose to wait to be contacted by their local GP services."
All four mass vaccination centres will only be open every other day from 9am to 3pm for the next two weeks - reflecting the current supply of jabs.
Moreover, people in priority group six - 16- to 64-year-olds with serious underlying health conditions - are being invited to GP-led clinics due to the relationship between general practice and those with long-term conditions.
That means mass inoculation sites are having to cater for almost all patients in group five, which is 65- to 69-year-olds.
One of those offered a jab in Brighton was 65-year-old Ian Butcher, whose nearest available appointment was in Bury St Edmunds - 47 miles from his home near Norwich.
"It seems strange to me," said Mr Butcher, who is retired. "It is frustrating because the infrastructure is there, but I wonder whether the vaccine is being sent to the wrong places.
"From the layman's point of view, it seems there must be plenty of vaccine available in Brighton, but not in Norfolk.
"I am not desperate to get one, but I am thinking along the lines of there being an ageing population in a big rural area."
Jill Staines, from Long Stratton, was also left disgruntled when none of the Norfolk centres were shown as being available.
After repeating the booking process several times, the 68-year-old eventually managed to secure a slot at Castle Quarter.
All available appointments had been taken within five minutes, she said.
"I posted my problem on Facebook and found that, up until recently, there had not been any problems," said Mrs Staines.
"But on Friday several people said they were in the same position as me. One lady was elated to finally get the letter, but then deflated when she could not book.
"It would appear there is still a lack of capacity in Norfolk and, in particular, in south Norfolk."
One woman, who asked not to be identified, said her husband received a letter telling him to book via the national system - only to be offered Brighton, Colchester or Ipswich.
The 66-year-old, from near Acle, said: "It's a bit crazy. As much as we'd like to get our toes in the sea in Brighton, we don't want to travel down there. It appears to be another mess - a bit like the testing."
And another man in his 60s, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he and his wife were initially told they would have to take a 100-mile round trip for jabs.
"As it happens we've now received a call telling us to go to North Walsham," he said.
"I was not impressed with the system. People have been offered Brighton, a lot of whom are elderly and not very well."
Meanwhile, more than a third of people living in Norfolk and Waveney have received a coronavirus jab, fresh data has revealed.
New figures published by NHS England on Thursday show 297,668 patients had been administered at least one dose of the vaccine by February 14.