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Roving vaccination team set to drive down barriers to COVID-19 vaccine uptake

NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and Ipswich Buses have joined forces to launch a mobile COVID-19 vaccination facility. 

The roving model will tour east Suffolk for a period of at least four months, immunising people in areas where vaccine uptake has been lower than in other parts of the region. 

Minority ethnic communities, those with certain disabilities and others who are vulnerable due to poor access to static vaccination sites will all benefit from the programme. 

Two PCNs are leading and supporting the facility – Two Rivers Medical Centre and Barrack and Ivry Street. As well as making physical access easier, the clinicians on board will take time to answer questions and reassure anyone who has concerns about the vaccine. Some of the clinicians will be from different minority ethnic backgrounds and volunteers will be sought from the community to support them and help with translation. 

They will start by visiting mosques, synagogues, international churches, and sites in Ipswich town centre. 

Appointments will be made by invitation with some time slots kept free for open appointments and the opportunity to talk with clinicians. 

There will also be specific times allocated for women only, people with learning disabilities or sensory impairments and for those with low level anxiety or mental health problems. 

The bus will also give clinicians the opportunity to speak to patients about self-care – diet, exercise, obesity and the importance of attending cervical screening appointments. The CCG’s BAME social prescribing service will also be linked to the bus to offer further holistic support. 

Ipswich buses are providing the specially adapted bus free of charge. The company’s engineers have removed some of the seats and handrails and have installed three Perspex booths as vaccination cubicles. They have also created areas within the bus for an administrator, for discussions with patients and for any patients who might feel unwell and need emergency medical treatment. 

The bus will be sanitised between appointments with a special fog infection control machine and electricity will be available on board for IT equipment.   

Head of Partnerships and Alliance Delivery at Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, Louise Hardwick, said, “We are extremely grateful to Ipswich Buses for their generosity and the way they have worked with us so enthusiastically to transform the bus into a self-contained, clean and safe location for vaccinations to take place. 

"We can now be more reactive and target vaccinations in areas of the highest need as we move down the clinical groups. This will enable us to vaccinate the whole population more quickly, which will be instrumental in improving outcomes from Covid.”

General Manager, Ipswich Buses, Steve Bryce, said, “Ipswich Buses is delighted to be involved with this project to deliver COVID vaccinations to people in communities that might struggle otherwise to get to the fixed vaccination centres or might just need a little extra support when having their injection. 

“Delivering the vaccination programme is key to returning back to some sort of normality so we felt we needed to help and give something back to the communities that support and depend upon our bus services."

GP at Two Rivers Medical Centre and member of the Governing Body of Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, Dr Ayesha Tu Zahra, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity to reduce the health inequalities we know exist for some people in accessing this life-saving vaccine. I’ve had the vaccine myself and am keen to share my own experience of that with people who are worried about having it, whatever their reasons might be. 

“I’m also looking forward to getting to the more remote areas of the county to make the vaccination rollout more accessible to people who have difficulty getting to our static vaccination sites.

“We need to get as many people vaccinated as we can, not only to potentially save their lives but to possibly help reduce the risk of virus mutations.  This bus will play a crucial role in enabling us do that.”

Physician Associate and Clinical Director for Barrack Lane & Ivry Street Primary Care Network, Mr James Pawsey, said, 
“We have one of the most successful vaccine rollouts in the country in Suffolk and north east Essex. This is all about building on that and giving a bit of extra help to those who need it so they too can be a part of that success and help both themselves and their communities stay safe.”

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