COVID and flu vaccines have been brought forward in the Stroud area and across England amid rising concerns over a new variant. 

The Covid-19 and flu vaccination programme has launched earlier than planned after a new variant of coronavirus was detected in the UK.

While the variant, known as BA.2.86, has not been classified as a “variant of concern”, scientists have said that it carries a high number of mutations. 

GP surgeries in the Stroud area have agreed to give the vaccines and this will start this week.

Patients will also be offered their flu jab at the same time, which avoids them having to come back at a later date. 

The program was due to start in the first few weeks of October. 

Dursley GP Dr Simon Opher from Walnut Tree Practice said: “We have been suddenly asked to get people vaccinated quickly. 

“Staff at the surgery have had to work really hard to bring this forward. 

“Patients will be contacted by their practices when we receive enough vaccines. 

“Our first delivery was Sunday. We aim to get everyone jabbed in as quick a time as possible.

“Surgeries will contact patients so there is no need to ring up beforehand.”

It comes after an outbreak of Covid-19 in a care home in Norfolk at the end of August which saw 33 out of 38 residents test positive for the virus, along with 12 members of staff, according to the UK Health Security Agency. 

People in at-risk groups will also begin to be invited by the NHS to get their jabs from next week.

NHS England is urging people to get both jabs to avoid a potential “twindemic” of flu and Covid, which would put pressure on the health service.

Dr Opher, is also the Stroud constituency’s Labour parliamentary candidate and helped with the delivery of the Covid vaccination programme in Dursley in 2021. 

He added: “It is really important to get the older population vaccinated as they are most at risk of hospitalisation and death if they contract Covid. 

“If patients do not wish to receive the vaccine, they are perfectly entitled to refuse.

Stroud News and Journal: Helen Barrow and Paul Walley who are leading the vaccine roll out in Dursley pictured with Dr Simon Opher (right) Helen Barrow and Paul Walley who are leading the vaccine roll out in Dursley pictured with Dr Simon Opher (right) (Image: Dr Simon Opher)

“I have been dismayed that some people in our area have been spreading false information about vaccines. 

“This is dangerous nonsense.

“Of course people are entitled to say no to vaccines – but spreading false information costs lives.

“I urge everyone to take up the offer of the vaccine and get ourselves protected for the winter