Covid-19 vaccination bus to visit areas of Ipswich and East Suffolk where uptake has been low to make jab rollout 'more accessible'
A Covid-19 vaccination bus is set to tour the east of Suffolk in a bid to reach people in areas where vaccine uptake has been low.
Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and Ipswich Buses have joined forces to launch the mobile vaccination facility, which will run for at least four months.
The programme will benefit minority ethnic communities, those with certain disabilities and others who are vulnerable due to poor access to vaccination sites.
Officials at the CCG said the facility will allow them to target vaccinations in areas of the highest need.
"This will enable us to vaccinate the whole population more quickly, which will be instrumental in improving outcomes from Covid," said Louise Hardwick, head of partnerships and alliance delivery at Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG.
GP surgeries in Ipswich are leading and supporting the facility - Two Rivers Medical Centre, Barrack Lane and Ivry Street - and 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, while volunteers will be sought for support and to help with translation.
They will start by visiting mosques, synagogues, international churches, and sites in Ipswich town centre.
People will be invited to appointments, with some time slots kept free for open appointments and the chance to speak with clinicians.
There will also be specific times allocated for just women, people with learning disabilities or sensory impairments and for those with anxiety or mental health problems.
GP at Two Rivers Medical Centre and member of the Governing Body of Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, Dr Ayesha Tu Zahra, said it was a 'fantastic opportunity' to reduce health inequalities that exist for some people in accessing the 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," she added.
“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.”
The bus will also give doctors the chance to speak to patients about self-care issues such as 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 bus free of charge, which has been adapted for the programme, with some seats and handrails removed and three Perspex booths installed 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.
Ms Hardwick added: “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."
And Steve Bryce, general manager of Ipswich Buses, said the company was 'delighted' to be involved in the project, which was a way of 'giving something back to the communities that support and depend upon' the bus services.