OPINION: 'Why am I being told to have my vaccine in Skegness - when I live in Norwich?'

Aerial photo of the town centre of Skegness showing the pier on the sandy beach near fairground ride

One of the suggested locations for Nick's coronavirus jab was on the outskirts of Skegness in Lincolnshire, a 200 mile round trip - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One year, one month and one day after turning 45 there have been precious few benefits so far - lockdown happened within seven days of reaching the milestone.

But there was a silver lining on the middle-aged cloud this week when it was announced the top nine priority groups had been dealt with to such an extent that over-45s could finally book their first Covid-19 vaccination.

With most of my friends in their early 40s, this gave me a minor injection of glee at the realisation I could soon be stepping over this prickly divide of the jabbed and jabbed-nots.

With a generous wind behind me, I live a stone's throw away from a surgery where vaccinations have been taking place for months. 

I was mildly excited about booking my appointment and wandering over there. 

I could finally make use of the large marquee they've put up outside to keep elderly folks like me safe from the threat of another April hail shower, and I looked forward to not adding to the ever increasing number of taxis and cars I've seen clogging up nearby streets.

A local jab for a local man!

Failing that perhaps I'd be able to go to the Castle Quarter Food Court. Having interviewed two of the dedicated team of St John Ambulance workers last month it would be nice to maybe say hello in person. I'd be a bit miffed at not being able to have it at my ultra local surgery, but I didn't want to cause a fuss.

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Apparently the NHS website crashed on Tuesday as people of around the same age as me logged on to book their vaccines. 

I typed in my NHS number, hit the 'choose location' button and waited for the lottery to begin.

First up on Tuesday morning I was offered a jab in Harleston, that's 16 miles away. 

I came back 10 minutes later and was offered Downham Market Town Hall - 39.5 miles away. 

Suddenly a 30-odd mile round trip didn't seem so bad.

The next best option was Newmarket. I also had Colchester and Ingoldmells, which is near Butlins just outside Skegness, 101 miles from my house.

Castle Quarter Food Court popped up several times, but whenever I selected it and chose a time, I was told there was either a problem or that a particular slot was unavailable.

Later that night when I tried again, I was told to rebook as I was unable to go to my first appointment. I hadn't actually booked anything.

I tried again on Wednesday morning.

My eyes lit up when Norwich Community Hospital popped up but it was fully booked. Next nearest was a new location, Oulton Broad.

At lunchtime Castle Quarter and Norwich Community Hospital were back on the menu. Both times I selected the location and was met with  'No appointments are available'.

I walked past my surgery on Thursday morning and timed the journey home. Three minutes and 17 seconds. That's how geographically close I am to a coronavirus vaccine!

I don't blame them at all, they've been great over the past year and seemed to have had a renewed interest in improving my asthma medication.

I've read online that many asthma sufferers naturally expected they'd be bumped up the priority list for a vaccination against a disease that has severe implications on our respiratory systems.

As an asthmatic I am entitled to a free flu jab which I had at the same surgery I expected my Covid vaccine to take place.

A message on my surgery's website says not to call them about getting a vaccination but try and book it online. It also said I would be contacted when it was my turn.

NHS bosses have warned that the number of first-time appointments would plummet in April because of a delayed shipment of AstraZeneca doses manufactured in India and the need to focus on top-up jabs, which I can see has implications for people like me.

If you've been caught up in the bizarre online game this week too, you have my sympathy. I'm sure it's a scenario that's been played out on laptops and phones across the county.

It's a bit like getting in the online queue to buy Glastonbury tickets or when Ryanair have one of their £10 seat sales.

Ryanair might have actually been handy, especially if they flew to Skegness.

As I contemplated a long day out on the Lincolnshire coast I tried to trick the website by changing my postcode to a Skegness one to see if it would throw up Norwich as an option. It didn't. But, good news, I was offered a vaccination at my new local centre, just down the road!

I then changed my postcode to a Harleston one. Good news, I was offered one in Harleston.

I assumed people from smaller villages and towns would be heading towards bigger cities like Norwich for their vaccinations and not the other way around.

I tried again on Thursday and Friday and now it seems to be a choice of Harleston or waiting for my surgery to contact me, whenever that may be. The sense of urgency I felt on Tuesday morning has now been replaced by a sense of frustration.

No offence Harleston, or indeed Skegness, but I'm not prepared to make that trip for something I know is taking place so close to me.

If I choose to live in a city and to be 197 seconds walk away from a doctor's surgery, am I so wrong in thinking that it would be madness to drive to Skegness and back for potentially the most important medical injection of my life?