Titanic Centre to be transformed into latest mass vaccination hub

The Titanic Exhibition Centre in east Belfast is set to be transformed into Northern Ireland’s latest mass Covid-19 vaccination centre by next week.

Health chiefs are hoping that 4,000 vaccines a day will be delivered at the site.

It will offer the booster jab as well as first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Tanya Daly, clinical lead of the Covid-19 vaccination programme for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said the facility would be open to residents from across Northern Ireland.

“It is a mammoth task, we’re sitting with an empty building at the minute and we’re hoping to open as soon as possible,” she said.

“There are a lot of logistics around it, we need to get the equipment in, we need to get our pharmacy stations sorted and we have our rosters already open for our staff. We will open as soon as we can early next week.”

Ms Daly explained that they would be able to get a larger number of people through the centre than they could at a hospital site.

Coronavirus – Tue Dec 14, 2021
Tanya Daly, clinical lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (Liam McBurney/PA)

“We also have excellent car parking here, we’ve got good public transport links, so that’s the benefits of being on a larger site – more people in a better location,” she said.

Ms Daly urged people to come forward for the vaccine.

“Obviously it’s extremely important that we get the boosters, we know that the Omicron variant is very transmissible and the booster is going to help people not become as ill,” she said.

“But we will be able to offer first and second doses as well, so anybody who hasn’t had their first dose yet, please come forward, we’re here and we can give you your first dose of Pfizer or your second dose.

“This is a regional response, so while the South Eastern Trust are opening this mass centre here at Titanic Exhibition Centre, every trust across the region is opening larger centres, GPs are rolling out their programme, they’re going to open to all age groups as well as of course we have our community pharmacy colleagues.

“As we did in the SSE Arena, anybody who wants to have their booster vaccine, or first or second dose, please turn up. There will be walk-ins and there will be opportunity to book appointments as well.”

Judith Owens, chief executive of TBL International, said they were absolutely delighted to partner with the trust to offer the Titanic Exhibition Centre as a facility.

“The building unfortunately has been empty over the last couple of months because many of the events that we would have put on here had to be postponed because of the pandemic, so therefore it is great that we’re able to repurpose it and mobilise it into a vaccine centre, which will hopefully open next week,” she said.

“The whole building is 6,000 square metres of clear span space … it’s very well ventilated and from talking to the South Eastern Trust over the last couple of days it will work really well as a vaccination centre.”

The centre is set to be open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week for the next three weeks. It will not be open on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

The South Eastern Trust delivered more than 350,000 vaccines at a previous mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena for people from all over Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Robin Swann visited the centre earlier.

He appealed for everyone eligible to come forward now for their booster doses.

“Likewise, to those who are still unvaccinated, I say please get jabbed without delay. The emerging data on the Omicron variant is deeply concerning and we must do all we can to protect each other and our health service,” he said.

“The vaccination centres will obviously be busy next week with the additional age group, so I would encourage anyone aged 30 and over to get their booster this weekend if at all possible.”

All those aged 18 and over will be able to get the booster vaccine in Northern Ireland from Monday if it has been three months or more since their second dose.

Mass vaccination centres are also being opened in other trust areas, including the Foyle Arena in Londonderry and the South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon.