Covid: Norwich shopping centre food court becomes mass vaccination hub

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image captionThe Castle Quarter shopping centre will provide covid vaccinations from Monday

A shopping centre food court has become the latest hub to offer mass Covid vaccinations in the East of England.

Castle Quarter in Norwich is one of 10 new vaccination centres where NHS staff will administer thousands of doses a week from 18 January.

Until now, the regional service has been provided at hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as a single vaccination centre in Stevenage.

Health chiefs said the move was a "major boost" to the national rollout.

It comes as the government intensifies efforts to rapidly inoculate the most vulnerable people against coronavirus, with a target of offering 15m people in the UK a dose by 15 February.

image captionCastle Quarter remained open for previous lockdowns and will now house the new vaccination hub

Another centre in the East of England - the Lodge in Wickford, Essex - will also provide the mass vaccination service from Monday - bringing the number of regional hubs to three.

Medical director Dr David Vickers, of the Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust - which is co-ordinating delivery of the vaccine across Norfolk and Waveney - said the jab would be offered to the over-80s and health and care staff first.

"The centre is capable of delivering thousands of vaccines in the coming weeks and provides a major boost to our plans to offer protection to those who would benefit most, as quickly as possible," he said.

image captionDr David Vickers said the vaccination hub should see "thousands of people a week"

Letters are being sent to priority groups who live within a 45-minute drive of the centre, inviting them to make an appointment online or by telephone.

Dr Vickers said the shopping centre was "a great space: it's got plenty of parking and people know where it is".

Anthony Tovell, who received his vaccine injection at the hub in the food court, said it was "absolutely wonderful".

He said the location was "fantastic", adding "the staff have been wonderful and the atmosphere is lovely".

image captionAnthony Tovell received his vaccination at Castle Quarter in Norwich and said he was "extremely grateful"

Castle Quarter manager Robert Bradley said his team was "proud to support the NHS and community of Norfolk".

Three hospital hubs - at the Norfolk and Norwich, the James Paget in Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn - will continue to provide the vaccine in the county.

image captionPriority groups will be invited for appointments in the coming days

Melanie Craig, chief executive of the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the new service would "accelerate progress" of the vaccination programme for the county.

She urged patients to wait to be contacted - and to attend booked appointments.

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