A HEREFORDSHIRE health boss has spoken out against disruptive anti-vaxxers as efforts continue to vaccinate as many people as possible against coronavirus.

Glen Burley, who is chief executive at Wye Valley NHS Trust, said he did not understand why people would set out to disrupt the vaccination drive and cause harm to others.

His comments came as factors including the Omicron variant continue to cause high numbers of coronavirus cases across the UK.

In Herefordshire so far through the pandemic, 30,197 coronavirus cases have been found, with 2,262 cases found in the county between January 1 and 8.

Omicron cases were being reported daily by the Government, but this was stopped on December 31 Omicron became the dominant strain on the virus in the UK, the UK Health Security Agency confirmed.

But, Mr Burley said, an "incredibly effective vaccine" meant the significantly higher number of cases circulating compared with last year is not translating into high levels of hospital admissions.

A total of 416,333 first, second, and booster vaccine doses have been given to people in Herefordshire since the jab was introduced just over a year ago, while the latest government figures showed there were 25 patients in hospital with coronavirus in Herefordshire as of January 4.

None of those patients were recorded as requiring mechanical ventilation.

"The current numbers of Covid-related hospital admissions reported are also misleading," Mr Burley said.

"More than half of our reported cases are now incidental findings; people who have been admitted for other reasons who just happen to test positive.

"We test every admission and sequence the results to identify any new strains. While Omicron is incredibly transmissible, it is relatively mild for those who have been vaccinated. Particularly so for those who have also had their booster.

"The demand we are facing in this early part of the new year therefore should feel no worse than most previous winters.

"What frustrates me greatly are the anti-vaccination lobby.

"Freedom of choice is a key principle of our society, but I do not understand why some people are setting out to disrupt and cause harm to others."

Mr Burley said that while the timing of the latest wave of coronavirus could make things feel very similar to this point last year, the vaccine has meant the scenario from a local NHS perspective is very different.

But, he said, Herefordshire's hospitals are now facing a big staffing challenge, with many otherwise well staff having to self-isolate to reduce the spread of infection and protect other staff and patients.

"It feels incredibly tough," he said.

"With the recent opening of our amazing new wards, we now have truly excellent facilities, but a very stretched and stressed workforce."

But the comparison to last year and the effectiveness of the vaccine should give us great hope.

"The evidence is overwhelming, so please do whatever you can to help us, please take up the vaccine, and please also use NHS services sensibly.

"As another year starts, I would like to pay tribute to our health and care staff who have managed this pandemic so well over the past two years. Their selfless, caring attitude and sheer hard work have delivered an exceptional local response. I hope that they get some respite soon."