South Shields arts boss offers Customs House for delivery of Covid vaccination programme

A South Shields arts and entertainment venue boss has offered his presently-unused theatre as a potential vaccination site to help contribute to the area’s Covid-19 effort.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 9:24 am

Ray Spencer, who runs the Customs House theatre, suggested the Mill Dam venue could be used as a ‘pop-up vaccination centre’ in a recent social media post.

“Anyone looking for a venue to act as a pop up Vaccination Centre I know of a big building not being used at the moment,” Mr Spencer wrote.

"Fully accessible with large car park. No need for outside queuing! Just a thought!”

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Customs House boss, Ray Spencer

He subsequently told The Gazette: “If the authorities wanted to use the Customs House to become a vaccination centre we would very readily put ourselves forward for that to happen.

"And hopefully we have the kinds of resources to ensure that, even if they were queueing for any length of time, that there would be a way to keep them safely distanced and indoors.

"It’s a big old building that isn’t being used currently. Nobody has requested for us to do that or approached us. But we are here if needed.

South Shields' Custom House, Mill Dam

"Our sole purpose for existing is to serve our community. It’s the only reason Customs House is here. And, if we can’t serve them by putting on a cultural offer, we’d very readily open our doors and offer to act as a vaccination or testing centre to allow as many people to be processed as quickly as possible."

The Executive Director of Operations at NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Matt Brown, thanked the South Shields arts boss for the gesture and for wider community support displayed during the initial stages of the national vaccine scheme rollout locally.

He said: “We’re immensely grateful to everyone in our community who has rallied round and offered support in whatever way they can.

“We are making really good progress vaccinating priority groups at three local centres, and we have had first doses provided in nearly all of our local care homes.”

As of Tuesday, January 18, more than four million people in the UK had received their first dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccines.

The CCG said current sites in the region are ample to deliver and administer the levels of vaccine supply they currently have. But the organisation said it could consider the South Shields entertainment venue as a potential future site should the vaccine programme be expanded locally.

“Our colleagues in the hospital trust are working fast to give the jab to frontline healthcare staff, and work is starting soon on vaccinating people who are housebound,” Mr Brown added.

“We are aiming to vaccinate social care workers at local centres over the next two weeks. Mass vaccination centres like the Centre for Life in Newcastle are also hard at work.

“The existing sites are sufficient for current levels of vaccine supply, but we will consider all suitable options in the event of further expansion of the scheme.”

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