Western Morning News

HERE FOR THE JAB, NOT THE FOOTBALL

- WMN REPORTER wmnnewsdes­k@reachplc.com

THERE’S not much point in coming to Home Park to watch the football at the moment. Covid-19 means games are taking place without fans allowed into the stadium to watch.

But former Plymouth Argyle director and chief executive John McNulty was back on home turf for another reason, as one of the first Plymothian­s to receive his Covid-19 jab at the city’s new mass vaccinatio­n centre.

Two other centres for jabs, at Westpoint, Exeter, and the Stithians Showground, Cornwall, also opened for patients yesterday.

THREE new mass vaccinatio­n centres have opened in Devon and Cornwall, helping to speed up the administer­ing of Covid jabs to thousands of people across the South West.

Exeter’s Westpoint Centre, the Mayflower Stand at Home Park, Plymouth and the agricultur­al showground at Stithians all welcomed their first patients for vaccinatio­n yesterday.

The site at Westpoint, best known as the home of the Devon County Show and other major events, was establishe­d by the NHS with support from a team of volunteers from Network Rail, and people invited for a jab were yesterday already filing in for the first injections.

Members of the public who are in priority groups started arriving at Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park ground from 8am yesterday and were allocated chairs inside a giant marquee while waiting.

Appropriat­ely John McNulty, who is a former director and chief executive at Plymouth Argyle was one of the first to receive his jab.

It is hoped all three centres will not only vaccinate thousands, but also offer more flexibilit­y and convenienc­e for those being offered the jab.

Darryn Allcorn, lead chief nurse for Devon and chief nurse at Devon Clinical Commission­ing Group (CCG), said: “Every time someone in Devon is vaccinated, it brings us a small step closer to the end of the pandemic.”

He said of the Devon sites: “These two new sites will deliver thousands of vaccinatio­ns each week, initially bringing reassuranc­e, safety and peace of mind for those receiving the jab, and in time, when restrictio­ns are lifted, the confidence and safety to get back to normal life.

“Well done and thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make these sites happen in such a short space of time.”

Centres will be staffed by specially-trained vaccinator­s and support staff, with help from dozens of volunteers, with more being sought to help out in coming weeks.

Bus operator Stagecoach has tweaked its timetable to help people reach the centre more easily, particular­ly with the elderly among the first to be vaccinated.

Westpoint Exeter – which was at one stage earmarked as a potential 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.

At Stithians showground the person leading Cornwall’s first mass Covid vaccinatio­n centre has said the opening was an “emotional day”.

The huge marquee, which will soon be vaccinatin­g 1,000 people a day, will be giving vulnerable groups of people the Oxford AstraZenec­a vaccine 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Iain Davidson, Cornwall’s chief pharmacist who has been the clinical lead in setting up the vaccinatio­n centre between Truro and Redruth, said: “We were so pleased with how it went. We opened up, the new systems worked, the new processes worked. To have everyone coming through was quite an emotional day for everyone and we received some really great feedback from people.”

Those who have been vaccinated are invited to write a message as they leave. Comments so far include: “Fast! Efficient! Friendly! Great Service!” and “You’re all great. God bless you all.”

As marshals stewarded parking outside and nurses invited a steady stream of over-80s to the vaccinatio­n stations, Iain added: “It really has gone as smoothly as we hoped. All the wi-fi worked, all the computers worked. The marshals outside have been fantastic.

“A lot of planning has gone into it – there’s been a lot of hard work, so it’s great to see it has all paid off.”

One section of the vaccine centre is operationa­l this week, vaccinatin­g up to 500 people a day, with the second one following soon afterwards meaning 1,000 vaccines will be administer­ed every day.

Those who are aged 80 and over as well as health and social care workers will be the first cohort to receive the vaccine, with other vulnerable groups following.

The Stithians centre adds to the sites already offered at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and through the 12 GP-led primary care networks throughout the county.

Those attending will receive a health check and a pre-vaccinatio­n assessment, and then be observed for 15 minutes afterwards.

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