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Town centre vaccination hub prepares to open

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The Island’s second mass vaccination hub will open its doors in Douglas town centre on Monday 15 February, in the latest stage of the vaccine rollout.

Around 460 people are booked in for first and second jabs at the hub on its first day in operation.

The facility will deliver vaccine at whatever rate it is supplied to the Island and as priority groups are invited to come forward - with jabs currently being administered to the over-80s and over-75s. 

The facility has been created within an empty government-owned building on Chester Street in a collaboration between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Infrastructure.

The former Shoprite premises now houses a bank of 10 bespoke cubicles equipped to administer jabs safely, comfortably and efficiently. A specialist storage area and preparation room for the vaccine are in place, alongside a waiting area and facilities for admin staff. Patients are asked to arrive just before their appointment to avoid queues forming, but there is plenty of space and seating inside the building for those who need to wait.

Conversion work began in mid-January and with teams working 7 days a week on a shift system, the project was completed in 14 days. The DoI team drew on experience gained in construction of the airport facility using multiple local contractors, many of whom who had previously worked on the Covid wards and airport hub, including joiners, plasterers, painters, electricians, plumbers and cleaners. Materials were sourced from nearly all of the local merchants, with some opening especially for the works during the circuit-breaker lockdown.

On arrival, patients will be met by a team member who will outline their journey through the hub, from check-in and consent form signing to being called from the waiting area for their jab and then moving towards the exit. The operation is being overseen by vaccine coordinators Sam Kneen and Wendy Easthope assisted by admin staff and healthcare colleagues. 

The new hub is easy to access by bus or car. Additional disabled parking has been made available on Market Street, with 2-hour disc parking on levels 2 – 6 in the nearby Chester Street car park. A drop-off area has also been added outside the hub for taxis and patient transport.

Pedestrian signs will be put in place at key points around the town centre for pedestrians walking to the hub from bus stops and via Loch Promenade. Parking is available on the Promenade walkway between the War Memorial and the Bottleneck car park.

The Shopmobility scheme operated by Circa is available to help patients visiting the hub. From its base on the 2nd floor of Chester Street car park, the charity will lend wheelchairs, mobility scooters and walking aids to anyone who needs them – there is no charge and you do not need to be registered disabled. Circa is open from Monday to Friday and anyone who would like to use the equipment should call +44 1624 613713 to make a reservation.

The Chester Street hub replaces the facility at ward 20 on the Noble’s Hospital site where the vaccination rollout began at the start of January this year. The town centre hub’s opening follows the launch of the Airport vaccination centre last month, providing two purpose-built centres for the biggest vaccination programme ever undertaken in the Isle of Man. Ward 20 is now closed.

Health Minister David Ashford said:

‘I am delighted to see the next important step in the delivery of our vaccination programme come on stream. It has been good to see this disused building transform into a hub that will be well used over the next few months while we work towards vaccinating our Island’s population.’

This Saturday (13 February) a ‘pop up’ vaccination clinic will be held at Ramsey Cottage Hospital. Jabs will be given to more than 200 elderly people living in the north of the Island who are unable to travel.

The day is fully booked, and those with appointments are asked to arrive no more than a few minutes before their slot to avoid unnecessary waiting or congestion at the hospital.