A DRIVE-THROUGH flu vaccination centre has opened to help elderly and vulnerable people get their jabs ahead of the winter.

The facility at the Northern Echo area is one of the biggest drive-through operations in the country and will be able to deliver up to about 1,500 vaccinations a day.

It was set up to deliver the town’s winter flu jab programme as safely as possible amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Run by Darlington Primary Care Network, which includes all of the town’s GPs, anyone who is eligible for the free jab is invited to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Dr Amanda Riley, the network’s clinical director, said: “It’s a small team that’s done it and it’s pushed us out of our comfort zone but we are passionate about trying to deliver flu jabs and support the practices, which have been working so hard.”

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She added: “The uptake has been very good. Our biggest concern is the supply of the vaccine long term. We have more capacity to deliver the vaccine than we have supplies of it.

“Our message is for people to come, if they are eligible, and make an appointment as soon as possible.”

She added the same safety and emergency procedures are in place as would be in a doctor’s surgery, with the process taking about five minutes.

Initially, people in the most vulnerable categories are invited to make an appointment and if further doses are delivered, it will be offered to anyone aged between 50 and 64.

The coronavirus testing facility, which was at Mowden Park, has been moved to Blackwell Meadows.

This week, a flu vaccination facility is being set up at St Cuthbert’s Church Hall, off the Market Square in the town centre, which will operate Wednesday to Friday.

It is available by appointment only for people who do not have access to a car.

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Patients getting their flu jabs in Darlington drive through Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Dr Riley added: “We have done this as a primary care network, with practices working together but we couldn’t have done it without huge support from lots of others.

“It’s been a huge community effort. Darlington Cares and EE have been providing volunteer marshalls and EE has also provided dongles with internet access.

“The council has supported us with the traffic managements and cones and the police have been giving us advice.

“Without Mowden Park and St Cuthbert’s allowing us to use their premises we couldn’t be able to do it.”

It is expected to be at the arena until the end of November, depending on whether further doses of the vaccination become available.

Appointments can be booked by calling your GP or through the NHS app.

For further information visit www.darlingtonpcn.co.uk/flu_service_2020/