From running a treadmill to running a vaccination centre
It’s usually a place where people go to exercise, socialise and relax, but for a temporary time, the Angel Centre in Tonbridge, is now home to the third large-scale vaccination centre in Kent and Medway as the programme continues to ramp up.
From today (Tuesday, 9 February), those in the identified priority groups will be able to have their vaccination against COVID-19 in what is normally a sports hall, but which has quickly been turned into a vaccination centre, thanks to the support of so many people from different organisations.
Margaret and Trevor Steadman, from Tunbridge Wells, were among the first patients vaccinated today in the Angel Centre. Seventy-one-year-old Margaret said she and husband Trevor had made the most of being indoors during the national lockdown, but that she was keen to be able to go out again in the future.
She said: "I think we took our freedom for granted; I want to be able to go out again when I want. I came today because I want to protect myself, other people, the world.''
Trevor, 72, added: "We walked straight in today, it feels safe and well organised. I am missing being able to go to Suffolk in our caravan and am looking forward to when we can do that again.''
Ideally situated in the centre of Tonbridge, the centre has two large car parks right outside making it really accessible for people going there to be vaccinated.
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Paul Bentley said: “COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone in our communities in some way; I think the hope the vaccination gives cannot be under-estimated, but we know we still have some way to go.
“The vaccination programme is providing a real boost to people, especially for older community members who may have been shielding for some time. I am enormously proud of all the hard work that so many people have contributed to get this centre open as fast as we have been able to. I look forward to the day when the centre will close because we will have provided protection and hope to the communities we serve.’’
Francine Brewer, 70, from Tunbridge Wells, said she had wanted to be vaccinated because she doesn't want COVID-19. "I suspect I might have had it last March, but I don't want to take the risk. I'm looking forward to my next one now and to anyone wondering whether to have it, don't have any doubts at all,'' she said.
It takes a lot of planning to open a vaccination centre; from identifying a suitable site to rolling out the equipment needed for it to be able to start vaccinating and this has all been done in days.
Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom 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.’’
The centre in Tonbridge joins those already open in Folkestone and Gravesend.
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 nhs.uk/covidvaccination.
The two large car parks at the Angel Centre are pay and display; they can be found at Angel East car park (TN9 1QH) and Angel West car park (TN9 1SF).
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 Tonbridge centre and nearest car parking at kentcht.nhs.uk/service/kent-vaccination-centres/.
For a full list of other sites already up and running, visit www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/covid19vaccine.