Alton will be home to the latest vaccination site in Hampshire, as the biggest vaccine programme in health service history continues to gather pace.
The new centre will be located in the Boots Pharmacy on Alton High Street, and will start operating for the first time towards the end of next week (not earlier than 20 March). There will be capacity for approximately 400 vaccinations each week, although that number could increase significantly if required.
The new site is part of the national booking service, and so will be available to eligible people (currently those aged 55 and above) who receive a letter or text message inviting them to book a jab online at a time and location which is convenient for them. Anyone who cannot go online can call 119 instead, free of charge. (Please note – this is not a walk-in service. Only people with a booking can attend.)
Well over half a million people in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have already received their first vaccine dose, including more than 70,000 people in North Hampshire alone.
Dr Matt Nisbet, GP and lead for Business and Partnerships at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of CCGs, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be able to announce that a site will soon be open in Alton. We were always clear that the service would be kept under review as circumstances changed, and we have also been listening to the clear views being expressed by local people, asking us to consider expanding the options available to them. We believe that this new site, working alongside the main GP-led site in Chineham, is a positive outcome.
"The vaccination service in North Hampshire has been working phenomenally well thanks to the dedication of the frontline teams and superb volunteers, and this will now strengthen that local service even further. We know that the vaccination programme will be here for some time to come, so it is vital to ensure it is high quality, and convenient.
"I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this – from my colleagues working to make it happen, to the local people who have pushed us to deliver, and the many people who have offered their time or resources to help to make it happen. The community response has been fantastic.”
The service is currently open to people aged 55 and over who have been contacted by the national booking service. People who book will have a pre-vaccination assessment before they receive their vaccine, and appointments will be staggered to allow for social distancing - people are advised not to arrive early, to avoid queues.
If anyone has already been vaccinated since the letter was sent out, or would prefer to wait to be invited to attend a GP-led service, they can simply ignore it. If anyone has already been given an appointment by their local GP-led service (to the main Hampshire Court Hotel site in Chineham), they should still attend that appointment.
NOTE: Please be aware that the new Alton site will become available via the national booking service in the second half of next week - probably from about 18 March. It will not be available to people trying to book before that point.
Who can use the service at Boots?
The Boots site is part of the national booking service, and so is available to anyone who is contacted by that service and asked to book a vaccination. Currently, that means those aged 55 and over, who have been contacted – in time this age range will be expanded.
I live in the Alton area - am I guaranteed an appointment at this site?
Not necessarily. Like all national sites, there are only a certain amount of appointments on offer and so it may be that none are available when you try to book a slot. If so, you can either book a vaccination at another site, or try again later to get a slot at your closest site. Also, the highly effective local GP-led service continues, and will still offer appointments in Chineham.
When will it open?
The first appointments are expected to be available from around 20 March, although this is not yet confirmed, and will depend on finalising arrangements, and vaccine supply.
Can I just turn up and get vaccinated?
No. Very few vaccination sites have run 'walk-in' services, and this service is strictly for those eligible people who have an appointment.
How do I book my slot?
The service is only for eligible people who have been contacted by the national booking service. Once you have received that contact you can either call free on 119, or go online to www.nhs.uk/covidvaccination.
What if I had my first dose in Chineham – can I get my second dose here in Alton?
People will be invited back to the same service for their second dose, and so anyone who travelled to Chineham for their first dose will be invited again by the local GP-led service based at the Hampshire Court Hotel in Chineham.