Exeters mass vaccine centre opens tomorrow – Devon Live

Westpoint Arena will open its doors tomorrow (Tuesday January 26) as a Covid-19 mass vaccination centre.

The Clyst St Mary site, on the outskirts of Exeter, is one of two in the county that will open its doors this week, the other being Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park Stadium.

As of Sunday, January 24, more than 6.3m people in the UK had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine – that is more than 12 per cent of the population over the age of 18.

The Government has set a goal of vaccinating 15m people by mid-February, and it is hoped that the introduction of mass vaccine centres such as the one at Westpoint will help them hit that target, before eventually allowing those less at risk to also receive the jab.

Westpoint will open as a mass vaccination centre this week

What are they?

The two new centres in Devon – at Wespoint and Home Park – will join what is now a network of 50 large scale centres, capable of jabbing thousands of people a week, across the country.

Others include the Crick Institute in London and the Sunderland Nightingale Hospital, as well as the Black Country Living Museum, used as the backdrop to Peaky Blinders.

Many of the new centres will kick off by jabbing mainly health and social care staff tomorrow (Monday) before opening their doors to more patients on Tuesday.

NHS Devon said it would mean “thousands” more vaccinations could be delivered to residents each week, while it will also offer my choice to people as to where and when they can receive their jabs.

Westpoint Exeter – which was at one stage earmarked as a Nightingale hospital – will be run by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E), while the Home Park centre will be managed by the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.

The site was established by the NHS with support from a team of volunteers from Network Rail, whose volunteers also pitched in to help set up the NHS Nightingale Hospital in Exeter last year.

(Image: Howard Lloyd)

Steve Brown, director of Public Health at Devon County Council, added: “We’re very proud to be part of this key project. Vaccination is the way of out lockdown and the pandemic and the new centre in Exeter will give us more capacity to vaccinate local people in the weeks and months to come.”

Other sites opening this week in the South West are:

  • Bath and West Showground, Somerset

  • Bath Racecourse

  • Salisbury City Hall

  • Home Park – Plymouth Argyle FC

  • Stithians Showground, Truro, Cornwall

How does it work?

People aged 75 and over are being invited to book a vaccination at the centres or one of more than 70 pharmacy services now operating across the country.

If they cannot or do not want to travel to a vaccination centre people can wait to be jabbed by a local GP service or hospital hub.

Ultimately, the plan is to increase the number of sites to more than 2,500. The Government says this will mean everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site.

There are more than 1,000 GP services and more than 250 hospital sites now offering vaccinations in England.

Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are urged not to turn up early to avoid queues.

People are still being urged not to phone their local GP about vaccines as they will be contacted when the time is right.

“If you are invited to attend an appointment here, I can reassure you that measures are in place to keep everyone safe, and our brilliant staff and volunteers will look after you while you’re with us,” said Suzanne Tracey, chief executive of the RD&E and Northern Devon Healthcare Trust

Vaccinations at Barnstaple Leisure Centre in North Devon are also expected to be scaled up, with about 8,000 jabs planned over the next week, NHS Devon said.

(Image: Howard Lloyd)

NHS staff are working tirelessly to vaccinate priority groups in line with the guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

That was restricted to those aged 80 along with care home residents and staff but after the strong start the government has opened vaccinations up to all those aged 70 and over and the clinically vulnerable. Those aged 80 or over will continue to be prioritised for vaccination.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am grateful to all the NHS staff, volunteers and our armed forces for their continued tireless work to offer lifesaving vaccines to the most vulnerable people in our society.

“I urge every eligible person to book your jab when you get invited. By opening up more vaccination sites we are making it easier for people to get their vaccine.

“Vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself but a jab doesn’t mean you can drop your guard. It takes time to develop protection and we do not yet know if it stops transmission. For now everyone must continue to play their vital role in this fight by staying at home to save lives.”

What it means for vaccination numbers

The UK is making strong progress as it tries to have 15m vaccinated by mid-February.

Towards the end of last week, after overcoming something of a midweek dip, the number of people being vaccinated each day hit record levels.

If that continues then it could even mean that the Government will beat its target – and the opening of these vaccine centres such as the one at Westpoint should only help.

However, much like testing for coronavirus, the number of people being vaccinated over weekends does appear to go down.

There are concerns over the supply of vaccines, with a number of countries expressing their outrage at the news that they will recieve fewer doses of them than initially thought.

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Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “I am delighted by the outstanding progress we’re already making in the biggest vaccination programme in UK history.

“These 33 new major vaccine centres will bolster our existing network and enable the NHS to protect as many people as possible in the coming weeks.

“It is important everyone continues to follow the rules by staying at home and maintaining social distancing, even if you have had the vaccine, to save lives.”