Norfolk and Waveney to get Covid-19 vaccine bus in April

The modified bus will visit Suffolk communities with low Covid vaccine uptake rates

The Covid-19 vaccine bus in Suffolk has been operating in and around Ipswich - and one is due to arrive in Norfolk and Waveney in April - Credit: NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG

A pilot drop-in Covid-19 vaccination clinic held in Beccles attracted nearly 200 people in just two hours, it has emerged - and a vaccination bus is also on the way for Norfolk and Waveney next month.

Friday's Suffolk Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting heard that health bosses are trialling measures to help increase uptake of the Covid-19 jab among harder to reach communities across a number of means.

That included a drop-in clinic for over 50s - one where an appointment to get the jab was not needed, and plans to introduce a vaccination bus to tour parts of Norfolk and north Suffolk akin to the one already operating around Ipswich and Suffolk.

Susan had no doubts about getting the vaccine.

Norfolk and Waveney CCG is working to help take up of the Covid-19 vaccine in harder to reach communities - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A firm date for the introduction of the bus and its routes are currently being finalised, but health bosses say it is due to arrive sometime in April.

Jocelyn Pike, director of special projects with Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, told Friday's board: "In terms of progress we are doing really well. The latest data is 61% of all our adults have received their first dose, and that compares really favourably to the national statistic of 52%.

"We are piloting drop-in clinics for the over 50s where no appointment is needed. The first pilot ran in Beccles on Sunday [March 21] and actually we had nearly 200 people through in two hours, so that was really successful and we are piloting further both at the Paget and also going out to the west of the county in the Queen Elizabeth and Downham Market.

"We are also developing mobile vaccination clinics, and we are also hoping for a bus that can actively outreach some of those communities where we know uptake is poor.

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"Not unsurprisingly they are often those communities where health inequalities are highest and they have a larger proportion of our Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups."

Brandon Lewis' local hospital, the James Paget at Gorleston Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A drop-in Covid-19 vaccination clinic is expected at the James Paget Hospital following a successful pilot in Beccles - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Elsewhere, the trust is encouraging all over 50s to proactively call their GP practice if they have not yet had a first dose - a "marked u-turn" on the "don't call us, we will call you" philosophy seen at the start of the vaccination rollout.

A scheme called Project Now is also underway where follow up calls are taking place with those aged 70 and above who have declined vaccine appointments to understand their concerns.

That is focusing on around 12,000 patients in the first four priority groups, which the CCG said would be rolled out to the rest of the top nine priority groups if it proves a success.

Work is also ongoing to engage with those who have autism, learning difficulties or severe mental illness, as well as gypsy and Roma travellers and unknown carers.