Pop-up vaccine sites are helping to boost uptake and encourage more residents in Southend to get their coronavirus jabs.

Krishna Ramkhelawon, director of public health in the town, says he has been encouraged by the number of people using walk-in centres in recent weeks.

Sites have been set up across the borough in the past month to provide easy access to the jab, with one event in Leigh seeing more than 250 people attend in just a four-hour period.

That works out at about one person jabbed per minute.

Vaccine walk-in sites allow residents to receive their first or second jab, regardless of whether they have booked an appointment or are registered with a GP.

Mr Ramkhelawon says the convenience of these sites is helping the vaccine programme reach out to people who have been reluctant to have a jab.

He said: “The walk-in sites are open at different times of the day so that people who work can still get there.

“They were trying to get people through very quickly at the one in Leigh because the queue was longer than anticipated.

“We found it was younger people who were the ones coming forward at the centre which is really encouraging.”

He added: “The good news is so far, there has been a really good response to the walk-ins and we want that to keep on going.

“I guess we learned a lot from the Covid test sites and getting those set up.

“While we were running those, it was ok but not a lot of people were coming forward to get tested because it was too much effort or they couldn’t find the right time to go.

“You have to make it easier for people because everyone has busy lives so we’re trying to use what we learned with testing with the vaccine programme.”

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Areas where walk-in sites have been set up, such as Eastwood and Leigh, are now seeing vaccine uptake inline with the national average, with more than 80 per cent of the population having now had their first jab.

Around 70 per cent of people in West Leigh have had both jabs but there has also been success in the east of the borough where walk-in sites haven’t been set up.

An estimated 70 per cent of residents in Shoebury have had both jabs, while that rises to 75 per cent in Thorpe Bay.

But health bosses are now focusing their attentions on central parts of Southend, with Westborough, Victoria, Milton and Kursaal all seeing much lower vaccine uptake.

Only 63 to 68 per cent of residents in those postcodes have had their first jab, with uptake among younger people aged 18 to 49 a particular problem.

Mr Ramkhelawon says some parts of Southend have seen up to 68 per cent of young people getting their first jab, but it drops down to 55 per cent in three of the four wards of concern.

“With younger people we are tackling a number of things like the anti-vax campaign” Mr Ramkhelawon said.

“People are spreading fake news on social media and making people hesitant about having a jab.

“But we are also concerned about some Eastern European and black adult communities.

“We’ve done a lot of work with faith groups but I think we need to now be looking at some of the mixed elements of different cultures and how we work with those.”

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Mr Ramkhelawon says plans are being put together to use pop-up vaccine sites in Westborough, Victoria, Milton and Kursaal to help bolster uptake.

He is also hopeful the mobile vaccine van, which has previously been taken to various parts of mid and south Essex to bring the vaccine into communities, will be redeployed and used on a regular basis in those areas.

“It’s about getting to the heart of those communities.” Mr Ramkhelawon added.

“What we know is deploying mobilised services within those communities is more likely to lead to a better uptake.

“We’ve been looking at Luton and Bedford who have been a bit more successful doing it this way, particularly in areas with a similar demographic.

“Obviously it isn’t going to reach everyone because not everyone is going to go to these centres.

“So we’re talking to leaders in communities where uptake is not as high to ask what’s best to do and where and when is best to set up these walk-in clinics.”

Mr Ramkhelawon hopes a finalised plan to set up walk-in and mobile vaccine sites in areas with low uptake will be set up in August.

He has set a hopeful target of getting around 90 to 95 per cent of people across Southend fully vaccinated again coronavirus by the end of the summer.

“Realistically, if people don’t want another lockdown, don’t want anymore disruption to business or work or school, they need to get the vaccine,” he said.

“It isn’t a silver bullet, but it has been shown to reduce the risk of death and serious illness.

“If we can get to 90/ 95 per cent of the population immunised then that would be really good.

“I’m not saying it’s going to happen but it is certainly our aim.”