Blackpool’s Winter Gardens opens its doors as mass vaccination centre
Blackpool's iconic Winter Gardens has opened its doors to become Lancashire's latest mass vaccine centre this morning (Monday, January 25).
The historic entertainment venue will play its part in the county's mass vaccination programme, helping roll-out potentially life-saving jabs to thousands over the next few months.
Staff began administering the first vaccines at 8am today and Kevin McGee, joint chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, was at the Winter Gardens to welcome some of the first to arrive for their jabs.
He said: "Thanks to everyone who is making this happen, it’s a huge achievement and a huge boost in the fight against Covid-19.
"I'm incredibly proud to be here today, it's a fantastic facility and such an achievement for everyone involved.
"I would personally like to thank the whole team for their enormous and outstanding contribution in getting it up and running so quickly. It is absolutely instrumental in our fight against this virus and the devastating effects Covid is having in our community.
"When you’re called to come forward for your vaccine, please do."
It is one of three mass vaccine centres now operating in Lancashire and one of the biggest in England. The other two sites are at Blackburn Cathedral, which opened last week, and Lancaster Town Hall, which also opens today.
Today, Moor Park Leisure Centre is also expected to open as a small-scale vaccination hub, along with Mill Farm stadium - the home of AFC Fylde.
They join Blackpool Victoria Hospital and a number of local GPs who have been vaccinating patients since January 8.
More Lancashire sites are expected to open in the weeks to come, but their locations are yet to be confirmed.
This morning, the Winter Gardens tweeted: "For over 141 years, the Winter Gardens Blackpool has provided a tonic for the nation in the form of entertainment, a space to meet, discuss and debate, a venue that brings people together.
"Twice requisitioned to support a national effort in the past, today we are proud to do that again and support the magnificent NHS and the rollout of the vaccine that will eventually allow us to come together as we did before again."
Parking for vaccinations at the Winter Gardens is available at East Topping Street Car Park and will be free of charge for an hour for those getting the jab.
Thousands of people aged 75 and over, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, will be invited for vaccinations at the Winter Gardens over the coming weeks.
People who are eligible, live within 45 minutes’ drive from the vaccination sites and who have not already been vaccinated by their local GP-led vaccination service or hospital hub, will receive letters from this week from the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service.
You can find more information on how to receive a Covid vaccine at the Winter Gardens in our explainer below...
The resort's public health director Dr Arif Rajpura said the jabs' roll-out provides a "light at the end of the tunnel".
He said said: "I am delighted the vaccination programme is gathering pace and the council can support us by putting our venues to good use - I would like to personally thank all those staff involved.
"It is also important to remember that, even when vaccinated, it can take three weeks for that vaccination to become effective.
"Even then we need to remain cautious for a little longer and still need to continue to follow all the guidance on social distancing, wearing a face covering, washing hands and isolating."