Cricket club volunteers celebrate thousands given jab in first month as Covid vaccination centre
A Lancashire cricket club has helped vaccinate 3,000 people in one month - after using a small army of volunteers to turn the venue into a Covid vaccine hub.
Penwortham cricket club, on Greenbank Road, was first contacted by the NHS back in November and was asked if it could become a Covid-19 vaccination centre and began vaccinating the elderly and most vulnerable in the community a month ago, on December 22.
And NHS staff have since given the Astrazeneca vaccine to over 3,000 people at the sports club, with the help of volunteers.
It comes as new NHS England figures show 145,625 people in the Lancashire and South Cumbria Sustainability and Transformation Partnership area have been given the vaccine so far - with just under half, 70,027 aged over 80.
Club secretary Andrew Bailey said: "We really are supporting our local community. We are so much more than a cricket club and are well known in the community and felt honoured and thrilled to be asked.
"After being first contacted by the NHS in November, we started our preparations. We widened an existing entrance and knocked down a wall to create a new exit on to Greenbank Road for the one way system.
"The site needed to be suitable for the volume of patients so we also added improved ramps and a new temporary floor in the cricket club."
As well as offering car parking for visitors, volunteers from the cricket club have been on hand as marshals, with three to five people each giving up their days to help assist the process.
Following a broken summer caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, off-season lockdowns and restrictions were expected to leave these facilities empty and unused.
Andrew said that the cricket club typically spends half of the year closed over winter - meaning that the space can continue to be accessed over the coming months to continue giving the vaccine.
He added: "This has been a real community effort as we are able to give the NHS the time they need to use the space to give the vaccinations. We actually have the capacity to be open seven days a week, for 24 hours and have volunteers who would be happy to help.
"This is really us reaching out to our local community and continuing to make a massive contribution."
The Penwortham vaccination centre currently only operates on differing days once a week - it is understood that this is due to a shortage in supply of the Astrazeneca vaccine. The Post has contacted the NHS for confirmation of this.
The vaccine is given in two doses, and patients will be contacted when they need to return to the centre for their second shot, which is anywhere between four and 12 weeks after their first.
John Dent, from New Longton, had his text from the NHS just a few short weeks ago giving him a list of slots to choose from.
He hopes that the vaccination roll out means that we are able to return to normality and he is able jet off on his booked holiday to Crete in June.
After having his vaccination at the Penwortham cricket club, the 75-year-old said: "The pandemic and lockdown period has caused problems because it means I can't see my children, which has been very difficult.
"I am actually in a support bubble with my son and daughter-in-law in Manchester because they had a baby at the end of October, so it has meant I have been able to see them on a regular basis, but I haven't been able to see any of my other family.
"I can see us going back to some normality eventually, but we can't be too free with what we do and still need to comply with the regulations because nothing will happen at all until 60 or 70 per cent of people have been vaccinated.
"Using centres like this for the vaccine is more efficient because it is away from the GP practises and is somewhere local for people which is brilliant. I couldn't even feel the jab."
Patients are guided to a parking space by volunteer wardens and are told to stay in their vehicle until their individual time slot.
Their temperatures are then taken when entering the building before they are sent to one of five booths, given their jab and then sent away via a different exit.
76-year-old Winnifred Noblett, from Hutton, said the process at the Greenbank Road centre was "absolutely excellent".
She added: "I can't fault it, it has been brilliant coming for my jab today. I think using centres like this is ideal - everybody would love to be able to go and see their own GP but the logistics of that is very difficult, but this has been an excellent service.
"Going forward I am still going to remain very careful because this isn't going to just go away. It will now give me more confidence in leaving my house and mixing with people.
"I am certainly not going out and going silly, and I think I will remain very careful with what I do probably for the rest of my life, because it gives me that bit more confidence to be independent again and be able to go into the shops and see friends and family."