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Over 320,000 people vaccinated at more than 40 centres including a church hall, a theatre, a nightclub and a football ground in Hertfordshire and west Essex

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From a church hall and a theatre to a nightclub and Bishop's Stortford FC's football stadium, Covid vaccination sites across Hertfordshire and west Essex have opened their doors to almost 325,000 people since December.

Latest figures, released on Thursday (Feb 18), show that 322,286 people have received their first dose of the vaccine in one of over 40 vaccination sites in the area, either at GP-run sites, large vaccination centres, pharmacies or hospital hubs.

So far, a total of 180,866 (95%) of people aged 70 and over have received their first dose, alongside tens of thousands of health and care workers and patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Immunisation nurse Benedicta Ajulufoh with a patient at the Robertson House vaccination centre in Stevenage
Immunisation nurse Benedicta Ajulufoh with a patient at the Robertson House vaccination centre in Stevenage

All care homes for older people have been visited by vaccination teams and those who are housebound have been contacted and offered the vaccine at home.

Pamela Kenny, 87, from Hertford, who got her vaccine at Robertson House in Stevenage, said: “People were so kind. It’s been a good experience. Everybody's been so helpful and the wait has been short. Nothing to worry about.”

Barbara Denham, 83, who lives in Church Langley, near Harlow, said: “I was delighted to be one of the first to be invited in, and I would tell people there's nothing to be scared of and to just go for it.”

Across the vaccination programme, there are many examples of collaboration – turning halls, offices, sports and entertainment venues into vaccination sites, along with innovative ideas to protect the most vulnerable. These include:

  • A drive-through vaccine service at Batchwood nightclub in St Albans, enabling clinically extremely vulnerable people who have not left their homes for many months to get their vaccinations without leaving their vehicles
  • More than 3,500 volunteers helping with roles from car park marshalling to admin support
  • Special clinics for people with learning disabilities, offering longer appointments and more support
  • Firefighters, council staff, police officers and St John Ambulance staff supporting vaccination sites
  • Furloughed easyJet airline staff trained in basic life support working as healthcare assistants to support clinical staff at vaccine sites.

Dr Tara Belcher, a GP from Hitchin, said: “It’s been really hard work but it’s an absolute joy and a privilege to be part of the vaccine programme.

"We’ve had so much support from volunteers and the local community. And people are genuinely delighted to get their vaccine – some who haven’t been out of the house since March.

"We’ve received wonderful letters and messages of thanks. In a difficult year, this has been a huge morale boost for everyone. If you're one of those offered the jab, please come forward and help us protect you and those around you from this deadly virus.”

Richard Boyce, GP at Gold Street Surgery in Saffron Walden and clinical director of North Uttlesford Primary Care Network, said: “Patients have found the process at the Lord Butler Leisure Centre easy and simple, and have felt looked after during their visit, with many appreciating the opportunity to be vaccinated by their own GP team.

"We've been touched by the many letters of thanks in the papers during the past few weeks. This simply would not have been possible without the partnerships we have formed, and we’d like to offer a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped make this happen.”

Anyone aged 70 or over, those people who are classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and front-line health and social care staff who have not yet had their first Covid vaccination are being asked to contact the NHS to book their jab.

READ ALSO Hertfordshire and West Essex NHS chief calls on 21,000 'missing' over-70s to book jab appointments

They can do this through the national booking system at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or by calling 119 if they are unable to go online. If a suitable and convenient slot is not available, they can call their GP practice for an appointment at their local GP-led site instead.

While NHS teams continue to vaccinate any remaining people in the top four groups, more people will now be offered the vaccine.

The next stage includes anyone aged 65 to 69 and people with a specified underlying health condition (see foot of article). In addition, people caring for those at high risk from Covid-19, such as elderly or disabled people, will be offered the vaccine. More information about carers’ access to the vaccine will be released soon.

Health and care organisations are working on a range of initiatives to encourage anyone who may be hesitant about the vaccine to come forward for their jab. As well as outreach work in the community, there are information campaigns, webinars and interviews with faith leaders, staff and members of the public to help inform and reassure people about the safety of the vaccine. More information about the vaccination, including links to information in a variety of languages, can be found here: healthierfuture.org.uk/covid.

Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive of the Herts and west Essex Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “We’re incredibly grateful for this immense team effort from everyone involved in the vaccine programme.

"In a short space of time, we’ve protected hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable residents. We’re looking forward to building on this success and giving the first dose to thousands more patients in the weeks and months ahead, as well as making sure that people get their second doses on time.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has set out the list of people with underlying health conditions as follows:

  • Chronic respiratory disease
  • Chronic heart disease and vascular disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic neurological disease, including severe or profound learning disability
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Immunosuppression
  • Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
  • Morbid obesity
  • Severe mental illness

In this next phase, GPs have been asked to offer jabs to people with underlying health conditions, while people aged 65 and over will in the first instance be invited to book a vaccination at one of the large centres. If somebody aged 65 to 69 wants to be vaccinated at their local GP-led site, they can wait to be called by their local GP practice.

Anyone in Hertfordshire who has booked their vaccination but is unable to make their own transport arrangements can get help through a service put in place by East of England Ambulance Service, Hertfordshire County Council and local NHS clinical commissioning groups.

People can call 0300 790 6254 (Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm) to ask for support to get to their appointment. People should call this number only once they have made their vaccination appointment. The service operates seven days a week.

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