'And they're off': Vaccines underway as hub opens at Ludlow Racecourse

The latest Covid-19 vaccine hub was launched at Ludlow Racecourse today as Shropshire's roll out begins to switch from a trot to a gallop.

Malcolm Bunn was the first to be vaccinated at Ludlow Racecourse
Malcolm Bunn was the first to be vaccinated at Ludlow Racecourse

Park and ride buses carrying willing recipients arrived at the track to see white tents in the shadow of the pavilion, which would act as the paddock for these patients to be led through for their jabs.

Military personnel from RAF Cosford were on hand to administer vaccines, with help from NHS staff, firefighters and volunteers including coaches from Shrewsbury Town in the Community.

The vaccination centre at Ludlow Racecourse

It may not be your usual day at the races, but with its 500 patients-a-day capacity, this hub is another in the county which will help boost the odds of life getting back to some kind of normality soon.

There has been plenty of criticism of the government for closing the stable door after the horse has bolted on a number of issues in this pandemic, but it has earned back some respect over the success of the vaccine roll out.

The first recipient of the day was retired Severn Trent worker Malcolm Bunn, 72, from Ludlow. He wanted to share his appreciation for NHS staff.

He said: "It's not been great but it's not been as bad for me as people on the front line. They have had a tremendous job to do.

A thumbs-up from Malcolm Bunn

"We're lucky to be in the countryside, we've got a nice area to walk around. I feel sorry for people in multi-storey flats.

"Me and my wife enjoy going on cruises. We're looking forward to getting back to normal."

Like many families, Beryl and Mike Bytheway, from Craven Arms, have loved ones dotted around the country who they've had to miss out on seeing. They're most looking forward to going on holiday and seeing their grandson get married in August, and hope that the vaccine roll out will mean it can go ahead in style after being cancelled last year.

"We're hoping it will be okay by August," said Beryl. "We've got a grandson in Nottingham and a daughter in Norfolk. It's a relief to get the vaccine. It has all gone very well today."

The pair are excited for when life returns to normal, but say they have managed okay during lockdowns.

Minsterley Motors have put on shuttle buses to the vaccination centre

Asked if the shut-ins have tested the resilience of their 57-year marriage, Mike joked that he was helped through by "a load of beers".

"We've done alright, we've got our garden to do and birds to feed," he added. "And we've got each other."

Beryl said: "We've been going out for walks and we've been Zooming.

"I've been Zooming with my quilting club and the WI."

Vaccine recipient Malcolm Bunn with Philip Dunne MP

Shepherd Roger Hayward travelled from Hopton Wafers for his vaccine.

He said: "I'm very grateful that it is done. I didn't feel a thing. I had to check if he'd done it."

He said it comes as a particular relief as his partner works in a supermarket, where she is more exposed to the virus and could bring it home.

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said: "This is a great day for Shropshire. We've had some difficult days and it has been slow to get going during January, but now everyone is doing fantastically well in getting over 80s vaccinated."

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