SHEFFIELD Arena is playing its part in helping the Covid-19 efforts by becoming one of the NHS's mass vaccination centres - but people awaiting the jab are being urged not to turn up without booking.
The venue opened its doors today to become a vaccination centre - and joins more than 30 other primary care vaccine sites across the region where GPs teams are vaccinating some of the region’s most vulnerable residents.
People aged 75 and over within a 45-minute drive of the arena will receive a letter from the national NHS booking service inviting them to either book a vaccination at the arena. If they already have an appointment at their local GP vaccination hub, they can disregard the invite.
Health officials said if it is more convenient to wait and have their vaccination at their local primary care centre, people are not required to book in at the arena.
The arena will be open seven days a week and will be run by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals on behalf of the NHS national vaccination programme.
Dr Jennifer Hill, medical director for operations at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said GPs, nurses, pharmacists and countless other NHS staff, partners and volunteers were pulling out all the stops to deliver the vaccination programme as quickly as possible across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
She added: "It is tribute to their hard work that we have already vaccinated thousands of our most vulnerable residents. The arena opening today is another step forward in rolling out the vaccination programme.
"We are asking people to help us by not turning up at the arena unless they have an appointment as we cannot vaccinate people ad hoc.
"The teams at the arena, at our hospitals or GP surgeries cannot make appointments for the arena - and so by calling or turning up will simply take time away from the staff who are vaccinating and that is the last thing anyone wants to happen.”
Dr Hill thanked NHS colleagues and the team at the arena for all of their help and supporting, adding: "First, they supported us to create a drive-through blood testing service so that our most vulnerable patients could still have their blood tests safely and now they have been instrumental in our planning for the vaccination programme roll out.
"Finally, a plea that over these next few months, even if you have had your vaccine, you must continue to wash your hands regularly, limit contact with other people unless it is essential and wear a mask when required.
"Our hospitals are fuller than ever before with patients who have Covid-19 and if we are to get control of this awful virus we need everyone to do all they can to limit transmission to others whilst we continue to vaccinate the population.”