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The Angel Centre in Tonbridge opens as Kent's third mass vaccination centre

A mass vaccine centre opened today in Tonbridge, after being delayed by a day because of the snow.

Grandparents excited at being a step closer to hugging their grandchildren and shielding residents looking forward to once more visiting the supermarkets, were some of the first visitors to the Angel Centre in Angel Lane.

The Angel Centre has been turned into a vaccination hub
The Angel Centre has been turned into a vaccination hub

The leisure complex has been turned into a vaccination centre, capable of delivering thousands of jabs a week. It is the third large-scale vaccination centre in Kent, with sites in Folkestone and Gravesend already open.

It was due to open yesterday but bosses decided to postpone because of the snow, with appointments rescheduled.

Pauline Trowls, 71, who received her first dose of the vaccine today alongside husbands Stephen, said: "I had no problems, I'm just delighted we had it."

The pair explained they are looking forward to seeing their five grandchildren again, two who live in Dubai.

Mr Trowls added: "At the moment we stand at the top of the driver way and wave to the ones in Tunbridge Wells."

Visitors to The Angel Centre speak after receiving their first vaccine dose

Adrian Lucas, 69, said visiting the centre was the "highlight of my week".

Mr Lucas, retired, is looking forward to playing with his 15-month-old grandson in the garden.

He said: "I've hardly seen him at all. I have seen pictures of him charging around his other grandparents' home, where he lives, and I'm jealous."

Robin Chapman, 70, also received the first dose of his vaccine today. A keen rower and member of the Maidstone Invicta Rowing Club since 2003 and former chairman, Mr Chapman cannot wait to get back on the River Medway.

Robin Chapman received his vaccine in Tonbridge
Robin Chapman received his vaccine in Tonbridge

After getting his vaccine, he said he felt "fantastic".

"I'm just waiting to get out of the house and get down the rowing club. Team and Zoom is okay but it's one to one, to get together in a big group, that's what life is all about.

He said the vaccine felt like a light at the end of the tunnel.

He added: "If I get it, okay I might have mild symptoms, but at least the vaccine will protect me from the hospitals and things, it's going to be gorgeous."

Sandy Harrison, 73, from Tunbridge Wells, like many is looking forward to having a more active role in her grandchildren's lives.

Couple Stephen and Pauline Trowls
Couple Stephen and Pauline Trowls

"I see them but from a distance, I just want to look after them again and be with them again," she said.

She added she has found the last year of the pandemic quite difficult.

"I live on my own so lockdown I found difficult, I stick to the rules but at times I'm quite lonely, but there's lots of people like me, I know."

Irene Young, 69, from Parkwood said the vaccine will give her more "peace of mind" when visiting and caring for her 99-year-old dad, who lives alone and had his jab three weeks ago.

She added: "Everybody in there was amazing, so helpful and understanding."

MP Tom Tugendhat has welcomed the leisure complex's transformation into a vaccine centre Picture: Parliament TV
MP Tom Tugendhat has welcomed the leisure complex's transformation into a vaccine centre Picture: Parliament TV

The centre's opening has been welcomed by Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat.

Mr Tugendhat said: “I am delighted the Angel Centre is now home to a COVID-19 vaccination centre. It’s a really positive boost for the community in west Kent, knowing it is so accessible for many people, and is a great use of space for priority groups to be vaccinated.’’

Leader of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Nicolas Heslop said: “Transforming the Angel Centre into a facility able to provide vaccinations to people across west Kent is a huge achievement and my heartfelt thanks go to everyone involved.

“We will continue to do all we can to support the NHS in its vital work, protecting residents and helping our communities chart a course out of the pandemic.”

The Tonbridge centre is open to people aged 70 and over. The last invitations to those aged 70 and over, or those who are on the shielded patients’ list who have not yet been vaccinated, will be going out this week.

However, if you are in an eligible priority group and have not yet had a letter, you don’t have to wait. You can make an appointment by phoning 119 or visiting the NHS website here.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Tonbridge

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