SOMERSET’S only mass Covid-19 vaccination centre is closing this weekend – to allow for HORSE RACING to go ahead.
The centre – based at Taunton Racecourse – opened on Monday (January 18), with capacity for administering hundreds of vaccinations each day, between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week.
However, it has emerged that the centre will shut down this coming Saturday, due to a race meeting scheduled for that day, and reopen on Sunday.
The first of the seven races on Saturday is due to begin at 1.05pm, with the last race at 4.30pm.
The meeting will run behind closed doors due to the ongoing national lockdown, so there are no tickets on sale to the general public.
Andy Heron, joint senior responsible officer for the Somerset Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “Taunton Racecourse is one of 16 venues from which we are currently vaccinating people from Somerset.
“It is a much loved local venue, we have been very pleased to work with colleagues from the venue, and we have received some very positive comments from people who have received their vaccination there.
“From the outset of our discussions with the racecourse, we knew that scheduled race meetings would continue to take place every 10 days to two weeks during the winter months.
“We have factored that into our planning, including scheduling of vaccination appointments and management of the venue for vaccinations.”
An NHS spokesman said that, as the impact of race days had been factored into the planning process, the numbers of vaccinations would not fall as a result of the closure.
Future racing fixtures are scheduled to take place on the following dates: Tuesday, February 9; Tuesday, February 23; Thursday, March 4; Monday, March 15; Tuesday, March 23; Thursday, April 8; and Wednesday, April 21.
The racecourse vaccination centre is said to be able to administer 900 vaccines each day, and has so far been catering to people in the vulnerable categories from within a 45-mile radius of the Corfe site – taking in much of Somerset.