SPORTS STADIUMS, places of worship and even a former nightclub are among the venues secured by English councils to help boost Covid-19 vaccination efforts, alongside offers of free parking, transport and friendly advice to get people protected as soon as possible.

At present the programme is on course to meet the target to vaccinate the first four priority groups as identified by the JCVI by 15 February 2021.

The nationwide rollout has seen local authorities across the country playing a fundamental role alongside the NHS in keeping residents informed and able to make their appointments safely and on time.

Volunteers, including community champions and faith leaders, are working alongside council staff to reach out to vulnerable people and those from black and ethnic minorities, to provide reassurance and answer any questions.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils across England, said practical offers of help such as free lifts to vaccination centres, waiving parking charges, online Q&As and translating information into different languages is making a real impact on encouraging uptake locally, in line with the priority groups.

Councils say they know their communities best and have also used their own facilities or existing relationships with local landlords to set up new vaccination sites at short notice, such as the Halliwell Jones rugby stadium in Warrington or the former Debenhams store in Folkestone, now known as Folca, while providing directions and managing queues.

In St Albans, the district council helped the NHS set up a much-needed vaccination centre at a building which had just been vacated by the former leaseholder, a nightclub. It is in easy reach of a large population.

Councils have also been reaching out to rough sleepers and those who are at risk of homelessness in their areas to ensure they are registered with local GPs and able to access a vaccination appointment. People living on the streets are among the most vulnerable in society, lacking access to healthcare and the ability to self-isolate safely, with many also having underlying health conditions.

Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said: “Vaccination is the only certain route out of this pandemic and the national effort has brought our collective community spirit to the fore.

“The vaccine roll-out has been a huge success so far and councils are playing a key role in coordinating the rollout on the ground, with their unrivalled knowledge and connections with their communities helping to get the word out about the vaccine, using trusted local leaders to answer residents’ questions and dispel any myths.

“Vaccination centres have been swiftly set up at short notice while councils have introduced other helpful measures where possible, such as providing free parking in council-owned car parks and offering lifts to those without their own transport.

“They will continue to do all they can to make sure everyone can safely and easily receive their vaccination on time.”

* Source: Local Government Association