A former department store in Folkestone is about to become the first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination centre in Kent, with plans to vaccinate thousands of people a week. The centre, which will open on Tuesday, will be the first of a number to open in Kent and Medway in the next few weeks.
An army of vaccinators and support staff from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) is taking over Folca, the former Debenhams store, in Sandgate Road to deliver the jab to thousands of vulnerable people. The site will increase the number of vaccinations it delivers in the weeks ahead and will operate from 8am until 8pm, seven-days-a-week.
KCHFT Chief Executive Paul Bentley said: “This is the biggest vaccination programme the NHS has ever undertaken and we are delighted to be playing such a vital part in this rollout to the wider public.
“We are well used to delivering thousands of vaccines a year through our school and community vaccination programmes. Our staff are doing an incredible job to deliver vaccinations at the same time as continuing to be there for anyone who needs our care.
“This really is partnership work at its finest. We are supported by colleagues from across the healthcare system and thanks to our volunteers, local councils and some of our emergency services’ colleagues; we can now roll out the vaccine to protect the communities we care for.”
The Folkestone site will be open to members of the public who have received a letter from the NHS and been invited to book. Nobody needs to contact the NHS, as people will be invited when it is their turn.
Dr Sarah Phillips, Medical Director for KCHFT and Faversham GP, said: “Kent and Medway have been hit hard by the highly transmissible new variant of COVID-19, so we’re delighted to be able to open our first public, large-scale vaccination centre.
“We will be starting with everyone aged 75 years and over, including the over 80s who haven’t yet received their vaccine, and letters will be sent to people living within a 45-minute drive of the site. If they cannot or do not want to travel to our vaccination centre, people can wait to be vaccinated by a local GP service.”
Folkestone & Hythe District Council proposed the use of the site before Christmas and KCHFT has been working with council officers on plans and practicalities ever since.
The new large-scale vaccine centres will each be capable of delivering thousands of vaccinations each week, scaling their operations up and down according to vaccine supplies and demand.
Yesterday (January 22) county councillors at a members’ briefing were told a large scale centre would also be opening at a shopping centre in Thanet – assumed to be Westwood Cross. A date has not yet been given for this.
People who book in to a vaccine centre will receive a pre-vaccination assessment before they receive their vaccine. Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are urged not to turn up early to avoid queues.
If anyone has already received a jab since the letter was sent out or would prefer to wait to be invited to attend a hospital or GP service, they can simply ignore it. People like care home residents who are unable to travel to vaccine centres, hospitals or GP-led sites are already being jabbed at home.
For a full list of other sites already up and running, visit www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/covid19vaccine