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Long waiting times at Debenhams mass vaccine site now resolved


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Thousands of people have now been vaccinated at Kent's first large scale vaccination centre.

It opened in the former Debenhams store in Folkestone last Tuesday and is offering the Covid-19 vaccine to people living within a 45 minute car journey.

The centre opened for the first time last week and has now delivered thousands of vaccines. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The centre opened for the first time last week and has now delivered thousands of vaccines. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Last week reports emerged of long waiting times at the centre, but the issue is now resolved according to the Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which is running the site.

Sue Whigham, who lives near Tenterden, received her first jab yesterday at the town centre building, and said she was "impressed with the whole experience".

She added: "Yesterday's session was run like clockwork with efficient and friendly staff.

"There was a small queue which moved fast - approximately six/eight people.

"I was processed and then had the jab quickly and left.

"I must have got to the building at about 2.15pm and was out by about 2.45pm.

Queuing issues, as seen last week at the centre, have now improved. Picture: Sean Axtell
Queuing issues, as seen last week at the centre, have now improved. Picture: Sean Axtell

"I didn't have any sense of a long wait and had there been, there were a few strategically placed chairs for those who might need them.

"I was so impressed with the whole experience."

Pictures from last week showed scores of people waiting outside the former shop, which has been empty since Debenhams left in January 2020. It has since been purchased by the district council and re-named Folca.

Gordon Flack, deputy chief executive of the trust, said waiting times have been reduced: “We are pleased that increasing the number of stewards and volunteers, as well as making other improvements inside our vaccination centre, has reduced waiting times.

"As we increase the number of vulnerable people we vaccinate each day, we ask that people arrive on time, rather than early, for their appointment to avoid congestion and stay two-metres apart."

There are now two more mass vaccine sites in Kent as well as the one in Folkestone. Picture: Barry Goodwin
There are now two more mass vaccine sites in Kent as well as the one in Folkestone. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The Debenhams vaccine centre was the first large scale site to open in Kent, but two more have since opened in Gravesend and Tonbridge.

Ashford MP Damian Green praised the work going on at the Folkestone site. He said: “All of these places get better at it as they go along, frankly.

“If you are an early one, you might well have to queue, and that is obviously very unfortunate, but the main thing is having something open that can serve people from Ashford and Folkestone.

“And I understand they are getting through quite a lot there.”

The Charing resident says there is “definitely hope” in the current Covid-19 figures as national and regional rates continue to fall across the country.

A man receives his Covid-19 vaccination at the former department store. Picture: Barry Goodwin
A man receives his Covid-19 vaccination at the former department store. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“Like everyone else, I am fed-up of being locked up at home,” he added.

“I know everyone is desperate to get back to something like a normal life and I think our best chance of doing that is to be patient for a few weeks and then gradually unlock from March onwards.

“I think what we all need to know psychologically is that this is going to be the last full lockdown, and that when we come out of this we can be confident that we won’t have to go through it again.

“If that means being quite cautious on the way out of this lockdown, then I think that is worth doing.”

Looking ahead to the end of the shutdown, Mr Green said “we are going to know on February 22 the steps we will take”.

He said: “I imagine what will happen is the schools will open first and some weeks after that the shops will open, then some weeks after that the pubs and restaurants.

“That is my personal view - I have no sort of insight into which way the government is thinking, but that would seem a sensible procedure to me.”

At the end of January, Ashford's blood plasma donation centre in County Square reopened following a brief closure.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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