First doses administered at Ipswich's mass vaccination centre

Melvyn and Brenda Bright arriving for their vaccination. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Vaccinations have begun at Ipswich's Gainsborough Sports Centre. Pictured are Melvyn and Brenda Bright - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

People in the top four priority groups for the coronavirus vaccination have begun receiving their first dose at Ipswich's new mass vaccination centre.

The centre, which was first announced in November, finally opened on Tuesday, January 26 – having waited for the final sign off to begin vaccinating the vulnerable and those aged over 70.

It is hoped the centre will soon be able to vaccinate hundreds every day, with targets for jabs said to be in the several thousands every week.

The centre will run alongside existing centres across the county, such as the five sites operated by the Suffolk GP Federation, and sites run by local NHS networks and hospitals.

One of the first recipients of the vaccine at the new centre, an 87-year-old named Norman, said: "I'm really pleased to get my vaccine, I think it's the only way to get back to normal."

Speaking before the opening of the centre, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he was pleased to see the vaccination programme improving, and said the centre will help to further increase capacity locally.

Mr Hunt said: "Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to get us to this point. All the NHS workers and volunteers. You're fantastic."

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Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, who is also a junior health minister, tweeted: "[I am] pleased to see confirmation that the Gainsborough Sports Centre in Ipswich will open today as another vaccination centre for Suffolk as the vaccination drive continues to accelerate."

Nigel Leonard, executive director of strategy and transformation at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), which is coordinating the vaccination centres across Suffolk and north-east Essex, added: “We know how important the opening of this new large scale vaccination centre will be to the people of Suffolk as we accelerate vaccinations in the county in our continued fight against Covid-19."

Another 29 centres are set to open across the country this week and it is understood that further mass vaccination sites are planned for other parts of the country.

Health bosses hope to reach a point where everyone in Suffolk and north east Essex will live within 30 minutes of a vaccination site.

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