Exeter’s mass vaccination centre to close (temporarily)

One of the largest vaccination centres in Devon is to close due to a lack of vaccine supply.

Lee Trewhela www.devonlive.com

The centre at Exeter’s Westpoint will close from April 1 with the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust stating it will have to wait to receive more information on vaccine supplies before making a decision on when it could reopen.

The news comes after health secretary Matt Hancock said delays to the UK’s Covid vaccine supply in April would not affect people getting their second doses or England’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Mr Hancock said the UK’s supply has been affected by a delayed shipment from India. NHS England warned of a reduction in supply in April in a letter sent to local health organisations last week.

In an email sent to volunteers, Leigh Mansfield – operational lead for the Westpoint vaccine centre – said: “You all be aware of the recent news around vaccine supply to the UK in April.

“What this means to us at Westpoint is that we will not receive any vaccine for first doses from March 29. The National Booking System will remain open to patients in cohorts 1-9, to book their first dose up to and including March 31. Given the very small number of patients booked on April 1-11 inclusive, we’ve taken the decision to close the vaccination centre and will move these patients forward to the end of March.

“On April 12 we will begin our second doses. We will wait to receive more information on vaccine supply for the latter part of April before making further decisions on our opening hours.”

Ms Mansfield added: “This is frustrating for us all, especially as we’ve only just begun to reach our full capacity! We’ve had a taste this week of just how many patients we can vaccinate in a day and it’s been incredible to work with you all and see your dedication and passion for the vaccination programme.

“For some of you, the rest over the school Easter holidays may be welcomed and for others we understand that you may wish to continue to support the wider vaccination effort.

“I would like to take this opportunity to once again say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone. Your response to the vaccination agenda has been magnificent and for that we are very grateful. We still have a long way to go, so take this little hiatus to rest and recover!”

The vaccine centre opened on January 26 at the same time as The Mayflower Grandstand at Plymouth Argyle Football Club’s Home Park Stadium, allowing for thousands of people across Devon to receive the Pfizer and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines.

A Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital spokesperson said: “If you already have an appointment over the coming weeks, whether for your first or second dose, this remains in place and it’s really important that you attend it as planned.

“We are contacting a small number of people who are booked to have their vaccinations at Westpoint vaccination centre between April 1-11 to bring their appointments forward to March if possible. Please continue to attend any booked appointments in April unless you hear from us.”