Hundreds of people will travel to Aberdeen’s P&J Live today for their Covid jab, as operations begin at the city’s mass vaccination centre.
Staff at the exhibition centre in Bucksburn have spent the last fortnight preparing the huge venue for the vital work, with help from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards of The British Army.
Initially starting work at around a fifth of capability, vaccinators could still treat up to 2,000 today alone.
By appointment only – and a plea for those with symptoms to stay away
The first to attend the so-called super centre will be the over-70s and mostly from Aberdeen – and bosses last night reinforced the facility is running by appointment only.
Clare Houston, NHS Grampian logistical lead for the mass centre, said: “Everyone will get a letter inviting them in with their time and remind people to wear a face mask, make use of the hand sanitising points, and if experiencing any symptoms that they shouldn’t come for their appointment.
“There are phone numbers on the letter to rearrange that, but we would encourage everyone to take the appointment given and come to P&J Live.”
People will be led from the doors, via hand sanitising stations, by signs on the walls and the ground to a winding set of barriers at the entrance to the hall.
Markers have been placed in this queuing space to ensure those waiting continue to observe the 6.5ft distancing required.
More than 2,000 signs have been placed around the venue to ensure no one gets lost – and the venue has brought staff back in from furlough and home-working to keep visitors right too.
Around 20 of the 100 booths set up in halls A, B and C of the £395 million building will be used in the first week.
Project bosses estimate, if supply allows, upwards of 10,000 patients could vaccinated there every day – though last week Health Secretary Jeane Freeman estimated numbers in the first days would be closer to 6,000 a week.
What can visitors expect?
P&J Live’s head of event management, Patrick Lynn, moved to reassure visitors who would potentially be arriving at the replacement for the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) for the first time.
The state-of-the-art facility only opened in summer 2019, before being forced to close its doors the following year due to the pandemic.
Mr Lynn said: “As patients arrive, via the instructions in their letters, they will come through either the subterranean or ground-level car park, otherwise they can take a number of public transport options as well.
“They will be greeted by one of our hosts, who will be a staff member from another department coming in to help and try to make people feel comfortable and safe in this environment.
“We are conscious that people might be very anxious coming in to a new place and also to get their inoculations.
“So as they come in, people will be greeted and enter the queuing system and, as they progress through that, will speak NHS staff and make their way to one of the booths to get their vaccination.”
Once they have received their jab, visitors will be asked to sit for around 15 minutes in a recovery area taking up around a third of the hall, lined with plastic chairs, spaced 6.5ft apart.
The arrows on the floor continue to lead patients back out of the venue, safely avoiding the queue of people waiting for their shot.
How to get to the P&J Live mass vaccination centre
NHS Grampian – along with the north-east councils and transport providers – has set up Thinc, a service to talk people through their options to get to P&J Live, another vaccination site, or for any other health appointment.
First and Stagecoach both serve the venue on their regular routes, while local firm Rainbow City Taxis is offering Taxi For Vaxi discounts to over-70s travelling for the Covid injection in the coming weeks.
Thinc advisers can be contacted on 01467 536111 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ms Houston added: “We also understand people may not have access to their own transport but there is a car park with 1,000-odd spaces, there is lots of public transport too.
“I appreciate some might be nervous doing that, but Thinc supports people to get the best method of transport here and can help book it for them.
“We are trying to take away any barriers for people coming here.”