AN old mobile library has been turned into a vaccine bus for the “final push” in getting people to have their Covid jabs before winter.

The bus was decommissioned when the mobile library service closed in 2016 as a result of budget cuts.

But it has now found a new lease of life as a vaccine clinic, helping to make jabs more accessible.

The first clinic was held yesterday at Eastbourne Sports Complex, in an area which has had a lower uptake so far, partly due to higher numbers of young people living there.

Penny Spring, Darlington’s director for public health, said the current programme would be running until about the middle of September, when the focus will turn to giving people booster vaccines and flu jabs ahead of the winter.

She said: “Vaccination is the way out of Covid. If we can make it easier for people to access vaccines that’s what we should be doing.

The Northern Echo:

“That’s why we have our wonderful vaccine bus. We are taking it to the people rather than them coming to us so we have hoping to see a big uptake.”

She said a mobile clinic at the recent Darlington Pride Weekender had seen about 470 people get their vaccines – most of whom were aged 16 or 17. “That’s really positive to see them being so keen,” she added. “We’ve had a fantastic response.

“We are really hopeful we will see a lot of young people getting their first vaccines.

“This is our final push to vaccinate as many people as we can before we move to the winter season with flu and Covid boosters.”

In Darlington, 84.5 per cent of adults have had their first vaccines and 72.5 per cent have had their first.

Student Daisy Appleton was among the first to get her vaccine from the bus on Thursday.

The 19-year-old, who lives nearby and is a student at Northumbria University, said: “I got my first one at Darlington Arena and my second appointment was for next week but this is quicker.

“Everything was fine, it was quite quick and there was no waiting.

“I’m relieved to have it done. I’m going on holiday to Tenerife in a couple of weeks so it means I won’t have to isolate.”

Laura Beveridge, 27, who lives down the road from the sports complex, also got her second dose. She said: “My appointment was for September 1 but I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. My partner works at the Covid testing site so we thought it would be best for me to get it done sooner rather than later and I want to get out in the world again as well.

“I had a little girl at the end of the first lockdown and we’ve been locked away so it will be good to take her to a few more places.”

Councillor Kevin Nicholson, the council’s lead for public health, said: “I think it’s a fantastic project.

“Some people don’t like the formality of pre-booking appointments and this is a bit more informal and that works for some people.

“We’ve put it here today because this area has had a bit of a lower uptake so it gives us another edge in getting people vaccinated.

Sunil Kumar, the community pharmacy lead for Darlington Primary Care Network, who also leads the vaccination roll-out at Cockerton Pharmacy, was giving out jabs yesterday.

He said: “Our expectation is that it will be more local people that come. The reason we are coming to particular areas is to make sure communities that have not been able to get their vaccinations already have that chance.

“We can see that in the data so we are encouraging people to come forward and make sure it is accessible. Everybody is welcome.

“We have plenty of provision in the town but this is more for people who don’t want to travel so we expect to see people who are from the area.”

He added: “I think we are getting more people who are more assured about the safety and understand how it impacts other people and what the benefits are.”

The bus will be out once a week in different locations around town. It will be in Kendrew Street Car Park on August 25 and Park Lane Car Park on August 31.

People will be able to walk in to get a jab between 10am and 4pm.

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