Mass vaccination centre forced to close after heavy snowfall
- Credit: Danielle Booden
One of Norfolk's large-scale vaccination sites has been forced to close after snowfall wreaked havoc across the region.
Patients will not be able to attend their pre-booked appointments at North Walsham Community Centre on Monday.
Hundreds were due to receive Covid jabs at the north Norfolk site from midday onwards, but inclement weather conditions mean it has been deemed unsafe.
Vaccines are also still being administered at Norfolk's three main hospitals.
Norfolk and Suffolk were battered overnight by heavy snow and high winds, which has made travelling a treacherous task.
Police have told the public to only travel if it is "absolutely essential".
Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, which has been overseeing the mass vaccination sites in Norfolk, said temporarily closing the North Walsham site was the right call.
A spokesman said: "The safety of the largely elderly and vulnerable people coming along to this rural vaccination centre is our highest priority.
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"Because of the snow and ice, it simply isn’t safe to open the centre."
The trust has said it will reopen the centre as soon "as soon as it is safe to do so", with updates to be issued via the media and social media in due course.
Those with bookings at North Walsham today are being contacted to confirm the cancellations, and advice is being given to ensure they understand how to rebook via the national booking system.
The trust spokesman added that patients will receive the "soonest possible" appointments.
There is no major concern over jabs being wasted as the current supply is of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which is far easier to store than the Pfizer/BioNTech product and can be kept for at least six months.
Meanwhile, Norfolk and Waveney CCG confirmed all planned clinics at its GP-led primary care hubs would go ahead as planned on Monday.
Patients are, however, being encouraged to consider their safety and only travel to appointments if it is sensible.
Those unable to attend will be contacted by the NHS in the coming days to re-book.
The following advice has also been given to people with upcoming appointments:
- Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible and no more than 10 minutes before your appointment.
- If you arrive early for your appointment, please wait in your car. Bring a blanket, hot drink and a book or newspaper to make your wait more comfortable.
- Wrap up warm. Lots of thin layers are recommended as well as a warm winter coat, hat, gloves and scarf. A short-sleeve base layer will make it easier to administer the vaccine in the upper arm.
- If you are unable to attend your appointment safely, contact your vaccination site to let them know if you can. If you cannot attend or get through to cancel, please do not worry. The NHS will contact you to re-book your appointment in the coming days.
With the region's hospitals still offering jabs amid torrential conditions, the James Paget (JPUH), in Gorleston, aimed to reassure its patients.
A spokesman said: "Our Covid-19 vaccination clinics are running as normal, so if people have an appointment they are welcome to attend as planned, if it is safe for them to reach us."
JPUH has recommended calling its patient helpline on 01493 453300 as the best way to cancel an appointment.
"We are maintaining our outpatient appointments, with the majority already being virtual," the spokesman added.
"Our advice to patients is if they have an appointment at the hospital and feel it is safe to travel, they can attend as planned - unless they have already heard from us.
"If a patient needs to cancel their appointment, they should let us know by using the number on their appointment letter."
Almost 25pc of people living in the East of England have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest NHS England data.
As of Sunday, February 7, 24.3pc of the region's population had been administered initial jabs.
Just 1.1pc in the East have been fully inoculated against the virus.