The Alban Arena: Inside St Albans' mass vaccination centre
- Credit: Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
The Alban Arena has now opened up as Herts' latest mass vaccination centre, joining the likes of Batchwood Hall and Harpenden Public Halls in fighting COVID-19.
Speaking on Monday, when the centre officially opened, clinical lead for the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust mass vaccination programme Caroline Shepherd said: “I’m delighted that the Alban Arena vaccination centre is now open.
"This is testament to the huge team effort from our NHS staff, our volunteers, St Albans district council, the Alban Arena 1Life team, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and so many other people and organisations, we are very grateful for their hard work and support.”
Jo James, the vaccination centre manager at the Alban Arena, shared her feelings about playing her part during the pandemic: “In my NHS career I’ve been a nurse, a midwife and a health visitor for St Albans, in fact I used to manage the health visiting team here until I retired five years ago.
"I volunteered to come out of retirement to help with the NHS vaccination programme, and it’s a pleasure and an honour to be giving these life-saving vaccines to people in my own community. Already this morning I’ve been reunited with someone I supported as a health visitor over 25 years ago, what a lovely surprise!”
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Nigel Palmer is the production manager at the Alban Arena, and assisted the clinical staff on Monday to ensure the centre is running smoothly: “It’s such a pleasure to see the building open and being used again for the benefit of local people, albeit for a whole new purpose. I’m proud that our theatre team have been able to help make this happen."
St Albans resident and software engineer Dave Grant is a volunteer with St John Ambulance at the Alban Arena. He said: “I used to be a medic with the armed forces and I signed up to St John Ambulance in January to help do my bit for the vaccination effort.
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"Today I’ll be looking after anyone who might feel a bit anxious about getting their vaccination or anyone who’d like a sit down afterwards. If there’s anyone who’s nervous about coming along, I’d say please don’t worry. There are so many friendly people here who are ready to help you.”
Nazma Taiyeb is a volunteer with Communities 1st, an organisation dedicated to supporting the voluntary and community initiatives in St Albans and Hertsmere. A primary school teacher by trade, she has been volunteering at vaccination centres across Herts with Communities 1st on her days off.
She said on Monday: "Today I’m running the feedback survey for people after they’ve received their vaccination, the feedback so far has been really positive. I’m proud that I’ve now had the chance to volunteer at a centre in my hometown."
“I’ve been to the Alban Arena many times to watch shows and pantomimes, I loved Cinderella and ABBA. It’s amazing to see it in a whole new light today, it’s been completely transformed!"
Fellow St Albans resident Jo Foley, who attended the mass vaccination centre as a patient, had high praise for the operation at the Alban Arena: “It’s been extremely efficient today, so well organised and everyone’s friendly. It’s nice to have some kind of social encounter again! I can’t wait to be able to hug my dad again, to hug everyone in fact!”
Speaking after receiving his COVID-19 jab, Peter Farrimond from Harpenden said: “The vaccination process has been really good today, I expected to see queues outside but there weren’t any, it’s all been very quick. It was well signposted and easy to get to, the booking system was simple too.
"I have a five month old grandson who I haven’t been able to spend time with properly, it’ll be great to do that. We have a family holiday in June, fingers crossed we’ll be able to get together properly then!”
“Getting my vaccination this morning has been so easy, no problems at all," Gillie Hutchins, from Wheathampstead, added. "One step closer to being able to socialise with friends and family again!”
If you are aged 55 or over, or are otherwise eligible for your coronavirus vaccine, you can book your appointment here.