The British Army is to take over part of Ashton Gate Stadium in South Bristol next week to set up a mass coronavirus vaccination programme, Bristol Live can reveal.
People in Bristol will start receiving the Covid-19 vaccines in just ten days time, starting with over-50s and frontline health and care workers, local NHS chiefs have confirmed.
The regional centre will be run by the army in the South Stand at the home of Bristol City and Bristol Bears in BS3, with tens of thousands of people expected to be vaccinated against the virus every week.
The stadium’s mass vaccination operation will be running 12 hours a day, and with its large indoor concourse spaces, large car park and location close to the main north-south road on across the west of the city, it’s seen as an ideal location for such an unprecedented operation. It’s also not being used as a spectator venue with fans still not allowed to attend matches under Tier 3 restrictions.
GP practices will be grouped together, with one of them administering jabs for patients from the other surgeries seven days a week.
Bristol Live understands the army logistics teams have ‘booked’ the stadium’s South Stand concourse from Tuesday next week, to set up the centre which could open as early as a week on Monday.
Between 75,000 and 110,000 people in the city, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will receive vaccines every week from Monday, December 7, until April 5, according to a report to University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBW) board.
Pharmacies will fill the gaps where GP coverage is low, and home visits will be carried out for housebound people, the area’s clinical commissioning group says.
At least 70% of the local population will need to be vaccinated, which involves a second dose three to four weeks after the first.
Robert Woolley, chief executive of UHBW, which runs the BRI, Bristol Children’s Hospital and Weston General, told trust board member on Friday: “We are gearing up to provide and administer mass vaccinations.
“This is moving very fast. It is subject to Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority approval but if that approval is fast tracked as we expect then we are gearing up to be able to start vaccinating staff and any other priorities that are advised to us nationally in December.”
A report to the board from Healthier Together, the region’s partnership of health and social care organisations, said Ashton Gate had been identified as a potential site for the mass vaccinations and that it would be open 12 hours every day.
It was the only site named in the papers.
Ashton Gate has had a small, mobile testing centre for staff of the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust in the car park since April, and since the spring, the large concourse inside the Lansdown Stand has been used by Fare Share South West as a distribution centre for its work to provide food for people isolating, or struggling in the pandemic.