Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and Ipswich Buses have joined forces to launch a mobile Covid-19 vaccination facility from Tuesday. The bus will tour Ipswich and 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, and benefitting minority ethnic communities, those with certain disabilities and others who are vulnerable due to poor access to static vaccination sites.
Two Rivers Medical Centre and Barrack and Ivry Street practice are leading and supporting the facility. As well as making physical access easier, 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 only, 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.
Ipswich Buses is providing the specially adapted bus free of charge. The company’s engineers have removed some of the seats and handrails and 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.
A special fog infection control machine will also be installed to sanitise the bus between appointments and electricity will be available for refrigeration and 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.”
Steve Bryce, Ipswich Buses General Manager, 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, added: “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.
“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.”