Talks underway to use Hartlepool Boots branch as covid vaccination centre
Patients could soon be getting covid jabs in a Hartlepool pharmacy as talks are underway to set it up as a vaccination centre.
Boots has confirmed the firm is in talks with the NHS on potentially using one of its branches in the town in the expansion of the vaccination programme.
It comes as those aged 60 to 63 began receiving letters and messages inviting them for vaccinations.
Boots has three stores in Hartlepool – one on Marina Way, a site in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, and an outlet in the One Life Centre, on Park Road.
NHS officials have confirmed pharmacies in Saltburn and Skelton will begin offering jabs from next week.
It comes after the Hartlepool Mail and its sister titles launched the Shot in the Arm campaign, calling for the country’s network of 11,000 community pharmacies to be used as vaccine centres to boost capacity and bring jabs closer to people’s homes.
A spokeswoman for Boots said it had worked with the NHS and CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) to open 12 vaccine sites in England.
She added: “We continue to work closely with the NHS and discussions are underway to expand this to more vaccination sites in the coming weeks and months – potentially including Hartlepool.
“Further details will be announced soon.”
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said: “The Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough is due to open in the next couple of weeks as a mass vaccination hub, which is excellent news if you are able to travel, but my preference has always been for people to be vaccinated locally.
"The Boots initiative would be great news if they could pull it off. It would make vaccinations more accessible locally and demonstrate that pharmacies are fully capable of playing their part in the fight against COVID, as the Mail’s Shot in the Arm campaign has been highlighting.
"It’s good to know that that talks are progressing positively and that hopefully soon we will have another weapon in our armory.”
The Government’s next target is to offer a first dose to all over-50s by April 15 as well as for those with underlying health conditions aged 16 to 64.
The Riverside Stadium is set to become a mass vaccination hub in the next fortnight to offer jabs to more Teessiders.
GP surgery groups are also continuing to invite people for their vaccines across the region alongside mass jab centres in Durham and Darlington.
Sandie Keall, chief officer for the local pharmaceutical committee on Teesside, confirmed Hartlepool was being examined as a site for a pharmacy jab base.
But she warned there was a “huge process” to be gone through to ensure a pharmacy got the point of opening for the service.
Ms Keall said the mass vaccination programme was the biggest the NHS had ever done – and there would be more pharmacies coming on board throughout March.
She added: “We’re doing our best to get as many (pharmacies) stepped us as possible in a short space of time to ensure they’ve got safe and appropriate vaccine delivery.”
Teesside has two community pharmacies operating where patients have been offered the jab in Acklam, in Middlesbrough, and Fairfield, in Stockton.
Dr Janet Walker, medical director at the Tees Valley CCG, said GP vaccination services were focussing initially on clinically vulnerable people in cohort 6.
She added those in cohort 5 – aged 65 to 69 – were receiving invite letters from the national booking service to book at a large vaccination centre, or a community pharmacy site.