Vaccine site to 'open shortly' in town

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is administered. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Residents have expressed concern that there is no vaccine site in Downham Market yet. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Officials have said a vaccine site will "open shortly" in a Norfolk town following concern that elderly residents are being overlooked.

People have expressed their concern that there is no vaccine facility in Downham Market after South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss announced in January that a site would be provided later in February.

Downham Market town centre, looking onto the Town Square and clock. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Downham Market town centre, looking onto the Town Square and clock. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Dan O'Connor, resident of the town for 13 years, raised his concerns in January, saying vulnerable people were being overlooked and has again expressed his worry that a site has not opened up yet.

He said: "It is now the beginning of March - and there is absolutely no sign of the promised vaccination hub.

Dan O'Connor from Downham Market has expressed concern that there is no vaccine centre in the town.

Dan O'Connor from Downham Market has expressed concern that there is no vaccine centre in the town. - Credit: Dan O'Connor

"Our town has over 2,000 residents who are over 70.

"Many of them have been designated as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable'.

"Some of our local surgeries are making valiant efforts from their already overstretched resources to provide very limited vaccination facilities for some of their own elderly patients.

"The vast majority of those 2,000-plus Downham elderly and vulnerable residents had to try and make their own way to either Swaffham or King's Lynn for their first vaccination, despite the inadequacies and health risks of public transport to both of those venues.

"Are they now going to be expected to do the same for their second vaccination when it is rolled out over the next weeks and months?"

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Another person, who asked to remain anonymous, said his mum was invited for her vaccination on Thursday, February 25 but the nearest site offered to her was in Cambridge.

He said: "She doesn't have a car, traveling such distances is of course far from ideal. Some of her neighbours are having to travel to Newmarket.

"Given that Downham Market was featured in the national news early on in he pandemic as having the highest average age in Britain this absence of a vaccination centre is especially striking."

The MP and NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said a vaccine site will open soon.

Secretary of State for International Trade and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss Picture: Chris Bisho

South West Norfolk MP and trade secretary Liz Truss. - Credit: Chris Bishop

Ms Truss said the three GP surgeries in Downham Market had been giving vaccines in the town which she said was something she has been pressing ministers and the NHS on.

Ms Truss said: "This is extremely positive news for local residents. In addition a further vaccine facility will open in the town later this month.

"The vaccine clinics do require a significant amount of organisation and I would like to thank all the GP staff and volunteers supporting these vaccine hubs in Downham.

"Any constituents who have been directed further afield for their vaccine, due to the national booking system, I have been raising their case directly with the CCG and a local vaccine site has been found."

But Mr O'Connor said it was "ludicrous" to expect surgeries to deliver the vaccinations for people in the town.

He said: "My own surgery can only manage one short vaccination a week during surgery hours.

"I presume the other two town surgeries are offering similar once weekly sessions.

"Because of extra pressures, my own overworked surgery was not able to offer me a procedure on my ears to improve my hearing."

A spokesperson for NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG said: “A vaccination site for the Downham Market area is planned and is expected to open shortly, subject to vaccine supply and other logistics. 

“Pop-up clinics have been operating in Downham Market at each of the three GP practices to ensure as many patients as possible, in line with the JCVI guidance, receive their first dose.

"These pop up clinics will continue to operate until the large scale vaccination centre at Downham Market opens, subject to vaccine supply."

Ms Truss said: "The vaccine rollout across Norfolk has been extremely impressive with over 40pc of the 16-plus adult population now vaccinated.

"This is a great achievement and places Norfolk in the top four counties in England for vaccine rollout.

"The work done by the NHS, councils, emergency services and volunteers to ensure the vaccine programme is delivered at pace has been brilliant and was something I commented on when I spoke to staff on the vaccine front line last month."

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