A SECOND mass Covid-19 vaccination hub opens in Somerset this week.
The Royal Bath and West Showground will start to vaccinate local residents and frontline heath and care workers from the highest priority groups.
It will open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm, as part of an additional wave of ‘large’ vaccination centres opening across the country.
Final preparations have been taking place on site before the first people arrive to get their jab this week.
Health and care organisations have been working together for several weeks to put detailed plans in place to prepare the site for the large scale vaccination programme.
Caroline Upton, a surgical matron at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and clinical lead for the site, said: “We are very excited to be starting our vaccinations this week and it’s great to see all our plans come together.
“It’s been a huge challenge to develop such a large vaccination programme and to creatively plan how to use the showground site in the best way.
“The project has involved a fantastic team effort, working with people from the local community, the Bath and West estates team, our volunteers and our partner health and care organisations.
“We’re really proud of the new vaccination centre and everyone is looking forward to getting started.”
The vaccination site has been set up within the Showerings Pavilion at the Bath and West Showground and it is hoped that once fully operational, alongside scheduled deliveries, teams will be able to vaccinate around 1,300 people a day through four vaccination pods.
Alison Wootton, joint senior responsible officer for the Somerset Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “We‘re delighted to launch our second large vaccination centre.
“This is another huge step forward in our local vaccination programme and will significantly increase the numbers of Covid-19 jabs that we will be able to offer to people in Somerset.
“We want to thank everyone who has supported the development and roll out of all our vaccination sites, including health and care teams, county and district council colleagues, partner organisations and our many community volunteers.”
In just seven weeks, teams across the wider health and care system have worked round the clock to design, develop and launch 13 GP-led community sites, two hospital hubs and now two large vaccination centres at Taunton Racecourse and the Bath and West Showground.
The new large vaccination site will continue to offer vaccinations to the priority groups as identified by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, including the over 80s and frontline health and care staff.
Over the next few days, NHS letters will be sent to local residents from the priority groups who live up to 45 minutes away from the new site.
People will be invited to book their jab through the new national booking services by phone or online.
The centre will be an additional option for people to have their Covid-19 jab, but people can also choose to wait to be called by their local GP surgery if they prefer.
Robert Drewett, chairman of the Royal Bath and West Society, said: “It’s a real privilege to be able to put our showground to such good use over the coming weeks.
“We’re full of praise for the amazing work the NHS are doing for such a complex vaccination programme – and if we’re able to play our part in providing a venue that helps give access to as many Somerset residents as possible, we’re delighted.
“We have been working behind closed doors since early December with the NHS logistics teams to get this site up and running.
“It’s truly great news for the region that our Somerset healthcare teams are working so hard to progress the vaccination roll out as efficiently and effectively as they are.”
People should continue to wait to be contacted by the NHS, either by a letter or phone call – do not call the Bath and West Showground or turn up without an appointment.
Kelly Thresher, from the vaccination team, said: “We know that some people may be anxious about coming for their jab, but we want to reassure everyone that we are all here to help and support you.
“We are ready to welcome patients with both visible and non-visible disabilities and the site is well set up, with easy access to the building and parking close by.”
Healthcare teams are working hard to vaccinate the most vulnerable groups as quickly and safely as possible.
The NHS will contact you directly when it is your turn – don’t call your GP surgery or local hospital to ask about your appointment.
And when you are contacted, attend your booked appointments. Also remember to continue to follow all the guidance to control the spread of the virus and save lives.