Published: 14:03, 29 November 2021
| Updated: 09:42, 30 November 2021
Hundreds of elderly and vulnerable patients were forced to queue for more than three hours outside in near sub-zero temperatures to get their Covid booster.
They all received a last-minute text on Thursday saying the jab team would be at Tesco's Sheerness store from 10am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
But they weren't told they would have to queue in the car park in bitingly cold 7C temperatures and be exposed to freezing wind from the North Sea. At one stage, at least one person collapsed from the cold.
A furious James Jayes, 61, who queued for two hours on Friday before quitting, stormed: "The whole thing was very poorly thought out and an absolute shambles. It was beyond belief.
"On the television, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging people to get their booster and we are shown people being vaccinated in warm halls. On Sheppey, we were at the mercy of the elements.
"There was a Covid testing centre a few hundred yards away but that was ignored. Surely there could have been an empty church hall or community centre which could have been used?"
The engineer added: "If I had put something like this together I would have been sacked. It is outrageous. There must have been at least 300 people there at one stage. Whoever headed this up doesn't know the first thing about human beings. They need to be kept warm."
His wife added: "This is yet another example of Sheppey being failed once again. The queue was massive. Most people had been waiting since 9.30am. It was absolutely freezing. It was a joke. It was just not acceptable. There were people in wheelchairs and some with mental health issues. It was awful."
Witnesses said the jab team's van didn't arrive until 10am but then had to send out for the vaccines. Those in the queue were told there could be a two-hour wait as Extinction Rebellion had closed an Amazon warehouse in Dartford in a protest over Black Friday deals.
Once at the end of the queue, people had to slip off their coats and were injected at a table in the open air.
Many from Sittingbourne and Rainham were also lining up. At one stage, the queue stretched from the side car park near McDonald's to the front doors of the supermarket.
Sittingbourne residents also complained the vaccination centre in their own town's Age UK was "seldom open" forcing many to try to visit walk-in centres in Canterbury or Chatham. Sheppey patients said they had difficulty getting through to GP surgeries to book a booster.
On Sunday it was little better with a three-and-a-half hour backlog. Some in the queue were worried they would receive parking fines as the free limit is three house.
NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group’s chief nurse Paula Wilkins said “We’d like to thank the hundreds of people who braved the cold to go to our pop-up vaccination clinic and are sorry if anyone experienced a longer wait than anticipated.
"We worked with partners to promote the walk-in, as well as using vaccine ambassadors on the day to encourage those nearby to have the vaccine."
She said those who weren’t able to go can book an appointment at Superdrug Pharmacy in Sittingbourne or Leysdown Pharmacy on Sheppey via the national booking service or by phoning 119.
She added: "If the site you are looking for is not there, please keep checking as new times and dates are added on a regular basis."
She said: “We are continually working to make sure there are opportunities for people to have their vaccine against Covid-19 and sufficient capacity across the county.”