THE Victoria Medical Centre is preparing to open the first vaccination service in a Sussex shopping centre at The Beacon in Eastbourne.
The first patients will be given the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccinations as part of the NHS vaccination programme roll-out that was launched in the UK earlier this month.
The former soft play unit in the extension of The Beacon is being transformed into a state-of-the-art vaccination service by the Victoria Medical Centre, a GP practice formed earlier this year with the merger of the town’s Green Street, Enys Road and Bolton Road surgeries.
The team working in the vaccination service will include six vaccinators plus staff to support patients and manage any queues. Patients waiting to be seen will be able to watch videos on a television screen outlining the vaccination process.
All vaccinations will be by appointment only for patients of the Victoria Medical Centre, starting with the elderly and most vulnerable, in line with government guidelines. Patients will be invited to book an appointment when they are eligible and are urged not contact the NHS to request an appointment until they are contacted.
The service is expected to be open for at least 12 weeks and vaccinate around 30,000 patients over that whole period.
Dr Mark Gaffney, of The Victoria Medical Centre, said: “We are really excited to be opening in The Beacon and we will be one of few vaccination services to be opening in a shopping centre in the country. It is an excellent location for us – in the heart of the community – and we hope by bringing patients into the service, that everyone, including retailers, will benefit.
“Our team has worked incredibly hard to get this service up and running in a very short space of time. We are very focussed on giving our patients a positive experience of this vaccination and are looking forward to getting the programme started next week.”
Bill Plumridge, Manager of The Beacon, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Victoria Medical Centre team into the Centre. In a year that has been challenging for everyone, the arrival of the vaccine is light at the end of the tunnel and we are very proud to play a part in this momentous roll-out programme.”
Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt welcomed the arrival of the vaccination service but urged people to remain vigilant.
He said: “The start of vaccinations is a momentous day for all of us, and I am delighted that The Beacon and the Victoria Medical Centre will be playing central roles. But I would urge people to remember the continuing need for social distancing, face masks and regular hand washing.
“We only have to look a few miles along the coast and inland to see that the number infections in Hastings and Rother is on the rise. I wish the populations in these areas the very best of health and would urge everybody, no matter where you live, to remain vigilant. Don’t forget … keep a distance, wear a face mask and wash your hands.”
The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme is underway. Around 50 Hospital Hubs began offering the vaccination from 8 December. A limited number of GP-led Local Vaccination Services will be able to start offering the vaccine to their patients in the week of 14 December. The vaccination programme will be expanding over the coming weeks and months as more vaccine becomes available. This will include:
- More Hospital Hubs
- More GP-led local Vaccination Services
- Establishing larger Vaccination Centres
- Roving Services to take the vaccine into care homes and people’s own homes if they cannot attend a vaccination site.
A priority in the NHS planning is to ensure that it is as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated when it is their turn.