“HAVE you had your booster yet?” is almost as popular a greeting as “Merry Christmas” at the moment, thanks to the government’s announcement earlier this month that all Over 18s are eligible for a third dose by the end of the year.

When my age category was called up last Wednesday, I was an early bird online, but could only book an appointment in Newbury in January. While I was grateful to be booked in, my mum’s message of “try and get boosted before Christmas if you can” was whirring in my mind - along with the slogan already emblazoned in everyone’s brain: “Get Boosted Now”.

Having managed to move it to the night before I head up north to see my family later this week, this time in Fleet, I thought I had been as successful as I would be. But then the announcement came that the CCG were opening “pop up” walk-in clinics in Basingstoke this week.

So, this afternoon (Monday, December 20), I headed to Gillies health centre in Brighton Hill.

I arrived at 3.10pm, and joined the queue of approximately 45 people. One volunteer told me that it’s been up and down in terms of numbers, but that it was “crazy” when they opened, with another adding that it was “manic” and they had a four line deep queue in the ASDA car park.

Most people in the queue seemed to be a similar age to me - in their mid-20s - and I heard a few saying that they were cancelling January appointments to get protected ahead of Christmas.

“It takes the pressure off Jameson House and Hampshire Court,” a volunteer said. “People are now cancelling their appointments and its opening up slots for people who can’t come here.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it surprised me to see that the pop-up clinic was outdoors. It made the roughly 40-minute wait a little chilly, but aside from that was quite reassuring as everyone was not only spaced out and wearing masks, but also out in the fresh air.

One thing to note is it’s worth taking a trip to the loo before you join the queue, just in case you’re there a while in the wintry weather!

But it didn’t feel like long before I was at the front of the queue, and I’ll admit there were a few nerves.

The lovely person doing my jab, Ali, explained that I would be getting a dose of Moderna (I had Pfizer for doses one and two) - and ran through my medical history and potential mild side effects such as a headache or fever.

The jab itself was merely a scratch, and I was then asked to wait 15 minutes by a heater (which I was grateful for!) due to having a history of anaphylaxis. Others were told to sit for 15 minutes in their cars before driving.

Aside from a slight irritation on my arm, I felt completely fine, and was cleared to head off.

As I walked back to my car, proudly showing my vaccination sticker, the overwhelming feeling was of relief. It’s done, and I can spend Christmas with my friends and family knowing I’ve ‘done my bit’.

For such a short amount of my time, its worth it to know I’ve done everything I can to reduce the pressure on the NHS and keep people safe.

If you haven’t booked your appointment yet, I urge you to do so. Or, if like me you are privileged enough to be near to a walk-in centre, pay them a visit this week. And have a Merry, boosted, Christmas.