A beaming smile (behind the mask) on the face of pensioner Maurice Jeffery was all team members at Kent’s first large-scale vaccination centre needed to see this morning (Tuesday, 26 January) as they began immunising thousands of people against COVID-19.

At 10am, Maurice was among the first to be vaccinated when the centre opened in the Folca building (previously Debenhams) in Folkestone town centre. He couldn’t wait to be vaccinated and had nothing but praise for the new centre, the vaccination programme and the smooth process.

People queuing for their jab in Folkestone

The grandad-of-10 and former carpenter from Folkestone, was one of the first to have his vaccine in the store that used to be Bobby’s, where he worked as a carpenter more than 60 years ago. His vaccination was given by Belinda Mortimer.

Maurice, 79, said: “I didn’t even know she had jabbed me – didn’t feel a thing. I have three daughters and two of them work in pharmacy and told me I had to get the jab. It was something I knew I had to do.

“It’s marvellous. The last time I was in the building, I was just a boy during my apprenticeship. I fitted the sprinkler system.”

A widower, he added: “I just can’t wait until I’m protected with the second jab too. I live on my own and I desperately want to see my grandchildren, although I know I have to wait.”

An army of vaccinators and support staff from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) has taken over the building in Sandgate Road, to deliver the jab to thousands of vulnerable people.

The site will increase the number of vaccinations it delivers in the weeks ahead and will operate from 8am until 8pm, seven-days-a-week, eventually delivering thousands of vaccinations every day.

KCHFT’s Chief Executive Paul Bentley and Medical Director Dr Sarah Phillips were at the centre as it opened its doors to begin delivering the much anticipated first large-scale centre in the county.

Paul said: “I am so incredibly proud of all the work that has gone into getting us where we are now. We want to deliver the programme in Kent in Medway as safely and quickly as possible to the most vulnerable people and today is a big step in that direction.’’

The Folkestone site will be open to members of the public aged 75 years and over, including the over 80s who have not yet received their vaccine and who have received a letter from the NHS and been invited to book. Nobody needs to contact the NHS, as people will be invited when it is their turn.

Folkestone & Hythe District Council proposed the use of the former Debenhams site before Christmas and KCHFT has been working with council officers on plans and practicalities ever since.

Sarah said: “As a GP, I have been taking part in the vaccination programme with my primary care colleagues, vaccinating patients. Seeing a centre on this scale now open is wonderful news and will really make a massive difference to the speed at which we can protect our most vulnerable in our communities.’’

People who book in to a vaccine centre will receive a pre-vaccination assessment before they receive their vaccine.

Appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are urged not to turn up early to avoid queues. You can find out more about the Folkestone centre and nearest car parking at www.kentcht.nhs.uk/service/kent-vaccination-centres/

The Folkestone site is the first public vaccination centre in Kent, but others are due to open across the county in the next few weeks.

The response to our recruitment campaign for people to support the large-scale vaccination centres has been staggering with nearly 3,500 external applicants and around 1,000 internal applicants wanting to help, as well as continuing their usual role.

Vaccinator Jayne Pressnell, 61, officially retired in February last year as a community nurse, but wanted to help at the vaccination centres. She has three daughters, with one recovering from COVID-19.

She said: “The NHS is my family. I just want to help to stop this pandemic, so I am happy to play my part. I can understand people are desperate for this vaccine.

“I’ve enjoyed working at the centres, it doesn’t feel like work. Each jab is life-saving and that’s what I think about when I’m vaccinating.”

For a full list of other sites already up and running, visit www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/covid19vaccine

The Kent centres are supporting the national vaccination programme against COVID-19. The public has an important part to play to help us in our efforts:
Please do not attend the vaccination centre without an appointment.
Don’t contact the NHS to seek a vaccine, we will contact you.
When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments.
Please continue to follow all the guidance to control the virus and save lives.

By Ed