Six new Covid vaccine sites open in Suffolk today as programme takes next step
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Six new coronavirus vaccine sites will start welcoming patients at GPs and community halls across Suffolk today - as the rollout takes its next step.
The primary care network (PCN) sites at Constable Country Medical Practice in East Bergholt, Woodbridge Community Hall, Debenham Leisure Centre, Hardwicke House Practice in Sudbury, Long Melford Practice and the Jubilee Centre in Mildenhall, are the first of the 14 new locations to go live this week.
The sites are alongside existing centres at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals and will be open 12-hours a day, seven-days a week. They will be run primarily by GP staff, with some members of the community volunteering to help deliver the programme, assisting as parking wardens and martials.
Alongside the PCN hubs, a number of "mass" vaccination sites will also be mobilised across Suffolk and north east Essex as the vaccine programme rolls out, such as the Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich, which is due to be set up later this month.
The large-scale operation comes thanks in part to a wave of volunteers who have taken up the call to support the NHS, with retired healthcare workers joining volunteers from all walks of life.
Lisa Llewelyn, workforce lead at the Suffolk and North Essex Integrated Care System – responsible for the vaccine rollout in Suffolk and Essex, said the programme is a "significant event in history" and a real opportunity for people to come together.
She has been leading the campaign for helping recruit volunteers for the "mass" vaccination centres and said they have had a very encouraging number of volunteers so far - but always need more.
They have had more than 3,000 applications and Mrs Llewelyn said they are grateful for every single one - but not all of those will translate into whole-time equivalents, as many people can only volunteer one day a week.
She said it has been a "rigorous" process and they have been working with the local authorities, to see if any staff can be redeployed.
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Mrs Llewelyn said: "This is a really significant event as we are the first in the world to do this - and these volunteers are being a part of history.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said he wants the top four priority groups to get the first dose of the jab by the middle of February.
Mrs Llewelyn, who is volunteering her own time to deliver the vaccine, said she recognises the target and is working on a daily basis to deliver it here in Suffolk and north Essex.
She said: "All of this is very dependent on the vaccine delivery.
"If everything works on time and we get the vaccine we anticipate we will get, then we are working together to hit that target. And yes we are going to do it.
"The centres will start to mobilise very quickly as we get more of the vaccine, so to get that recruitment process through is very important.
"I am certain that when people realise you can get involved in it, they will commit more days, as they see the value in what we are offering."
Health bosses are continuing to remind people not to call vaccination centres or turn up without appointments, to ensure they are not overwhelmed with enquiries. Those eligible for the vaccine will be contacted directly.
Those who are interested in volunteering at the centres should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the NHS website.